MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s the quintessential American dream played out on television: A group of people with cameras show up unannounced to say you’ve won a million dollars!
For years, Leanne from Clear Lake and Laura from Otsego have seen the Publishers Clearing House commercials, so they wrote to WCCO wanting to know: Do people actually win the sweepstakes?
“Yes, people really win the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes,” said Chris Irving, assistant vice-president with Publishers Clearing House. “Those TV commercials that you see on TV, that’s just as it happens.”
Since 1967, when the company started its sweepstakes, Publishers Clearing House has given out $360 million in prizes.
In 2015, 79 Minnesotans won prizes of $50 to $5,000. Two people, one from Beardsley and another from Minneapolis, won $10,000 each.
Minnesota has also had two $10 million winners. Alfred Slivnik from St. Cloud won in 1994 and Marcella Longnecker from Arden Hills won in 2002.
Irving says the Prize Patrol will show up to a person’s home for prizes over $10,000. When asked what happens when the winner isn’t there, Irving says they will go to a person’s work or talk with their neighbor.
“We track people at their home, we track people down an airport, we track people down where they work, all over the place,” Irving said. “Our Prize Patrol never gives up until we find our winner.”
The odds on the prizes between $5 and $50 are 1 in 223. But the chances of winning the big ones are far more remote. According to the Publishers Clearing House website, the odds from winning a $100,000 prize are 1 in 535 million, and the odds for winning some of the $1 million prizes are 1 in 3.5 billion.
Compare that to the odds of winning the Powerball: 1 in 292 million.
Publishers Clearing House makes money by selling magazines, household items and advertising. Sweepstakes entrants do have to give the company their name, address and email, but don’t have to buy anything to enter.
“The winning is always free,” Irving said. “We love it when someone buys something, but you have to same chance whether you buy or not.”
The Better Business Bureau rates Publishers Clearing House with an A+. The consumer watchdog says people should be aware of scammers pretending to be from the Publishers Clearing House. The company says it would never ask people to pay to claim their prizes.