Freebies are usually scams
How to tell if a Facebook contest is a scam
Many Facebook pages hold competitions. Some of them are legitimate giveaways while others are scams that aim to collect your personal information.
There's also a gray area that shows legitimate pages running contests on Facebook in ways they shouldn't. While there isn't anyone to look for to spot fake competition, there are a few things to look for that might mean something shady is going on. Let's break it all down.
The price is too good to be true
One of the biggest indications that a contest is a scam is the quality of the prize and what you need to do to win it. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Ford almost certainly won't be giving away a brand new Mustang on Facebook. The low-cost airline EasyJet is also not going to give everyone a £ 500 voucher to celebrate their anniversary. You'd be out of business in a year.
This does not mean that there are no competitions where you can win a Mustang or £ 500 flight voucher, just that there are large Prices. The competition can do a lot more than just do a quick survey that reveals your personal information.
Dodgy urls or pages
Take a close look at the url and page that is supposed to be giving something away. Often times, they're a very good way to get an idea of whether or not a competition is legitimate.
Take for example the URL of the EasyJet "Contest" my friend shared in the screenshot above. It's "easyjet.com-air.win". It does contain "easyjet.com" followed by "-air.win". This means that the actual domain of the website is “comprair.win”. The "easyjet" bit is a subdomain like "www". If I wanted, I could set up easyjet.harryguinness.com in the same way.
I've seen something similar on Facebook, too, where the page name is identical to the official one, but followed by a period. For example, if "Ford USA" is the official Facebook page, scammers will set up "Ford USA" and run a contest from there.
Any of these types of urls or page names should raise serious red flags.
No official announcement on the homepage
Here's another good test: check the official website of the company that the contest claims to be from. The first thing I see when I visit the EasyJet website is a huge banner announcing a 20% discount on sales. While it's not proof, the fact that they have such prominent promotions is definitely an indication that the competition is illegitimate. If EasyJet were really giving away several thousand pounds worth of vouchers, they would almost certainly make a big deal out of them.
You need to share or tag friends to participate
Promotions can be managed on pages or within apps on Facebook. Personal timelines and friend connections may not be used to manage promotions (e.g., "Share on your timeline to get additional items" or "Share on your friend's timeline to get additional items" and "Tag your friends in." this post to enter "are not allowed).
This means that the really common contests, if you have to share a post or tag three friends to enter, you are violating Facebook's Terms of Service for Pages. Given that this type of competition is rampant, many sites ignore Facebook's stance.
While many legitimate sites, like Dublin Gym, in the screenshot above, run contests like this. The fact that Facebook's rules are being ignored is a red flag. If they're willing to compromise with the way they compete, they are likely willing to compromise elsewhere. Facebook could simply switch them off at any time.
Too many competitions and no proven prizes were given
Most small businesses can't afford to give away 10 iPads. If a small local business or start-up is running weekly competitions with big prizes (iPhones and iPads are always popular) then they either have very deep pockets or something is fishy going on.
Likewise, if a site is running a lot of competitions and never announcing the winner or sharing a photo with the prize, it's another red flag. While Pages in most places does not have to publicly announce the winner until the prize exceeds a certain value, it is a good advertisement for them to do so. And advertising is why most of the sites run Facebook contests.
Both red flags appeared with the launch of (who is now dead) Pretty.ie. Within a year, 22 competitions were held on the Facebook page and almost 100,000 likes were collected. The Dublin InQuirers thought something was wrong and tried to track down the winners. They couldn't find any. You tried to contact the site owner so they could be put in touch with an awardee. However, their calls were never answered. Instead, a few days later, all competition entries were removed and the page was reduced to 32 likes. Sounds suspicious, doesn't it?
What a legitimate competition looks like
The greatest thing legitimate contests have to offer them is ... well, the opposite of all of that. Check out this promotion for Amazon The big tour. The competition is shared by an eligible page related to the show. It links to the Amazon website. The price is absolutely reasonable: a studio visit for a recording. There is even a general terms and conditions disclaimer! There is literally nothing about this contest item to suggest that it is not what it seems.
Facebook takes a close look at the competitions. Even though they know people are running them on their platform, they don't want anything to do with it. The guidelines make it clear that they are not responsible for and do not monitor the contests that Pages run. Instead, the site needs to make sure that their competition is overboard. This way, legitimate sites can easily run contests without skipping too many tires, but the door is also open to scammers.
The best advice I can give is to trust your gut. If a contest raises more than a red flag or two, you might not be participating. And whatever you do, never give out your Facebook login details or pay someone who claims you won a competition they put out.
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