Competition junkies

Bryan Seymour
Today Tonight

Melinda McFadden started entering competitions three years ago. The mother-of-two says it gives her a thrill.

"I won just a little boombox and before I knew it I thought, 'You know what, I could get into this!' It was a bit of a thrill."

Soon Melinda added a three month supply of nappies, a DVD camcorder and then, the jackpot.

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"The prize was $20,000 and it was also a whole heap of Canon products. Waiting for that $20,000 cheque was probably the most exciting moment."

Melinda has since won an iPod shuffle, but all her good fortune pales in comparison to a competition junkie like Faye Sinclair - she's netted an amazing $500,000 worth of prizes.

Faye has been entering competitions for more than 30 years - sometimes up to 80 in a week.

"Mail-in competitions, radio competitions, competitions on the internet, competitions on the telephone and by mobile phone," Faye said. "This is the big one, this is the biggest prize I've won yet, the Toyota Kluger worth over $40,000."

This year Craig Seitam, through his website, has helped competition hopefuls walk away with trips to LA, cash prizes and loads of electrical goods.

"The biggest win we've given away was a Peugeot, which was just over $40,000," Craig said.

"We find that people will tend to visit again and again, in fact we find that a large part of our member base will enter 50 competitions a week."

"There's around about 2000 competitions in the marketplace at any one time, so there's plenty of choice out there," Craig said.

Andrew Lindner runs, another website that lists competitions for punters to play - night and day.

"Some of the people would put in over 12 hours a day. There's a lady, a couple of years ago from Western Australia, who was regularly on the website every time I was on. Didn't matter what time of day or night, she would be on there. But again, because of the time and the effort she'd put in she won around $250,000 worth of prizes in that year," Andrew said.

"Recently another member from Western Australia won two cars within the space of about two months."

Andrew says people's motives for entering competitions vary.

"People's circumstances are different, some people are entering so they can sell those prizes to supplement their income for their house, so you can't judge a book by its cover. There's usually an underlying reason as to why people are doing it."

The McFaddens used their winnings to pay off their credit cards and a person loan, boosting their weekly budget.

"We're on one income, I'm on a carers pension and my husband works full-time. So having that $20,000 made up for almost half of what I would be earning if I was able to go back to work."

So, what do those in the know advise when it comes to entering?

"The biggest myth of competitions is the old 'You've got to be in it to win it'. Now that is important, but entering every single competition will take you a lot time and it won;t necessarily achieve you all that much."

"What you need to do is be very, very selective in the types of competitions that you're entering and try to understand, as best you can, what your odds are of winning," Craig said.

There are basically two types of competition - chance based, and the ever-popular 25 words or less.

"The best way tin a 25 words or less question is first of all answer the question honestly. Look for what the promoter is trying to ask, and thirdly, don't try to be overly creative or use silly rhymes," Craig said.

Other tips include understanding the terms and conditions and sticking to them.

Says Melinda: "Always keep your receipts when entering product-based merchandising competitions."

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