What are the odds of winning the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes?

What are the odds of winning the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes?
Publishers Clearing House says people do win its sweepstakes. But your odds aren't great.

Mimi says she's been receiving mail from Publishers Clearing House for years "and never found a logical reason" to take the bait.

Now she's wondering what's the harm in giving it a go.


OK, Mimi, fair question. After all, when the letter says "you may already be a winner," or words to that effect, it's hard not to think there's a pile of money out there with your name on it.

First of all, be careful. That letter or check purportedly from Publishers Clearing House may really be from a scammer.

As the company says: "If someone contacts you claiming to be from PCH, and tells you that you've won a prize award -- then asks you to send a payment or money card in order to claim the prize -- stop! You have not heard from the real PCH."

Are the prizes real? Apparently. Publishers Clearing House says it's awarded more than $223 million in prizes since the promotional sweepstakes began in 1967.

The company also says you don't have to buy any of the magazine subscriptions or other merchandise it's hawking.

As for your chances of winning, well, they're not great.

According to the company, your odds of winning a top prize such as $5,000 a week for life are "in the hundreds of millions." Online estimates place your chances at 1 in 1.2 billion.

To put that in perspective, your odds of winning the grand prize in the Powerball lottery are 1 in 175 million. The Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes makes that look like a sure thing.

So, Mimi, go for it if you like. You probably won't win anything.

But you'll definitely, absolutely, undeniably end up on tons of marketing lists.

If you have a consumer question, email me at or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz