NEW YORK -- There are thousands of Web sites offering sweepstakes to potential customers, but the stakes will make a big jump this weekend with a $10 million giveaway.
On national TV, iWon.com will give what sweepstakes watchers term the biggest Internet prize to date. Several other sites award $1 million or more, while smaller ones offer cars and vacations.
''The main reason I got on the Internet was to enter sweeps,'' said Michelle Sharp, a secretary in Galesburg, Ill. ''As long as you have one entry in, there is always hope.''
Among other prizes at various sites this month: A glass vial of teardrops symbolizing joy and sorrow. A week's use of a handyman. And in tribute to this year's Tax Day, a lifetime of tax payments.
One self-described addict has won everything from cash to condoms. ''I have boxes and boxes and boxes of prizes,'' said Camet Otto of Hermitage, Tenn. ''We're trying to buy a big house to unpack.''
As companies jockey to distinguish themselves on a crowded Net, prizes get larger and more numerous. Advertisers get a captive audience.
Even Publishers Clearing House, one of the largest mail-in sweepstakes, has gone online, although no Internet entrant has yet to win its $10 million prizes.
The $10 million giveaway comes two days before Tax Day (The IRS gets nearly $3.5 million of the prize, according to H&R Block estimates). Four finalists will appear on Saturday's prime-time special on CBS, which partly owns iWon.
Visitors to iWon enter the sweepstakes by reading news articles, searching for Web pages or sending electronic greeting cards. It is now one of the Internet's busiest sites.
On the Net:
List of sweepstakes: http://www.sweepstakesonline.com
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