Most of us who use Facebook will have seen posts claiming that we can win prizes or get free products or services. A great many of these are scams designed to accumulate likes and shares and – in many cases – trick us into divulging our personal information on dodgy “survey” and “offer” websites.
But, there are also plenty of legitimate competitions on Facebook. So, it’s not accurate to suggest that ALL competitions and giveaways on Facebook are scams.
How can you tell the difference? In this report, I discuss some ways that can help you ascertain if a giveaway is a scam.
Common Characteristics of Facebook Prize Scams
Facebook giveaways that have one or more of the following characteristics are likely to be scams rather than genuine competitions.
They Offer Very Valuable Prizes
Scam competitions often claim to be giving away very valuable prizes such as high-end cars, luxury RVs, air travel, or overseas holidays. And, they often claim to be giving away not just one of these prizes but several. Do a little basic math and you’ll quickly realise that such competitions would cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Of course, it is vastly unlikely that any company would participate in such an expensive exercise just for a few Facebook likes and shares.
They Claim That EVERYONE Gets The Prize
In other cases, the scam post may claim to be giving away smaller prizes such as a shopping voucher valued at $50 or $100. At face value, this might seem more reasonable. But the scam posts will claim that every person who participates will get one of the vouchers.
Again, some basic calculations expose the scam. Given the number of users on Facebook and how quickly a post can travel across the network, hundreds of thousands of users might participate within a few days or even a few hours.
So, the store supposedly doing the giveaway would potentially have to honour millions of dollars worth of vouchers. In reality, no store is ever likely to engage in such an uncontrolled and ruinously expensive giveaway promotion.
They Use Weird Excuses for Giving Away Valuable Items
Facebook scammers often come up with rather strange excuses to explain why valuable products are being given away. For example, they may claim that they have 300 iPhones that can’t be sold because they have been “unsealed”.
Of course, this claim is nonsense. A company might sometimes offer discounts on floor stock or on products that have damaged packaging. But, they will not simply give away thousands of dollars worth of stock to random strangers on Facebook because the stock is unsealed or the package is damaged or unsealed.
Other scams make vague and meaningless excuses suggesting that a product is simply “unsellable”. They don’t explain why the product is unsellable. Or why it would be ok to even give away an item such as a car that was so damaged that it could not be sold.
In other cases, they might suggest that hundreds of expensive products are being given away simply to promote the company or “raise brand awareness”. Or, they might claim that you can join a competition to become a “tester” for an expensive tech product such as a game console. And, the scam post will promise that you’ll get to keep the product after the testing is complete.
Again, real companies are never likely to give away large quantities of their valuable stock as promotions or as test units.
You Have to Fill in a Survey to Participate
Many scam competitions on Facebook will insist that you fill in a survey or offer as a final step in the supposed prize entry. Often, you will be told that you must complete a survey to prove that you are human, or to “validate” your entry. You will be presented with a list of links that open third-party survey sites. These sites will collect your personal information and share it with unscrupulous marketing companies.
No legitimate competition or promotion is ever likely to insist that you fill in surveys and provide your personal information on a third party survey website as a condition of entry. If you click what you think is a genuine prize link and then find that you are required to participate in surveys or offers to complete your entry, you would be best to exit the site without continuing.
They Have Non-Official Facebook Pages
High profile brands, entities and celebrities usually have verified Facebook Pages. That is, Facebook’s blue or grey verified icon will appear beside the Page or Profile name.
Scammers often create fake Facebook Pages that pretend to be the official page for well-known companies such as airlines, theme parks, cruise lines, or car brands. Or they may claim to be the official fan page for a high-profile entertainer. The scam pages will have a very similar name to that of the genuine Page and will often further the illusion of legitimacy by using stolen logos and images. The bogus pages will claim that you can win expensive prizes by participating in their giveaway posts.
But the fake Facebook Pages will NOT have the verified icon beside their names. If you come across a major brand or celebrity page that is supposedly giving away valuable prizes, first check for the verified icon. If the icon is not there, do a Facebook search. Chances are, you’ll quickly locate the official Facebook Page for the brand or celebrity complete with verified icon.
Do keep in mind, however, that less well-known brands or entities and Pages in some topic areas may not be eligible for Facebook’s verified badges or simply may not have applied for one. But, if the company or celebrity is very well known, then the verified icon will likely be present.
Page Names Have Unnecessary Punctuation or Strange Spelling
As noted above, fake Facebook Pages often try to give the impression that they are associated with well-known brands or people. One way that they attempt to achieve this is by using Page names as similar as possible to that of the genuine Page.
For example, they may use the same name as the original Page, but simply add a punctuation mark such as a period or dash in the middle or at the end of the name. Or they may add an extra letter or word to the name or spell it slightly differently. This tactic can fool Facebook’s Page creation system into allowing a bogus Page with a very similar name to that of an existing brand or celebrity Page.
The scammers rely on the fact that many users will just glance at their fake Facebook Page name and not even notice any spelling or grammatical anomalies.
So, if you come across a supposedly official company Page offering some fantastic prize, take a close look at the name. If there are any differences – even slight ones – to the way the brand name is normally displayed, you should proceed with caution. Again, you could do a Facebook search to see if you can locate the genuine Page.
They Have No Terms and Conditions
If a well-known brand is really offering a valuable item as a prize, then there will likely be at least some basic rules and terms associated with the competition. At the very least, there will be an official date when the competition is drawn along with details about how winners will be notified, rules for participation, and how winning entries will be chosen. Often, these terms and conditions will be listed in an official document on the company’s website or directly associated with the Facebook Page.
Facebook has rules for running promotions on the network that stipulate that Page owners are responsible for the rules and eligibility requirements for a promotion and must include a statement acknowledging that “the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook”.
High-profile companies conducting promotions or competitions on Facebook are likely to comply with these rules.
So, if a prize giveaway supposedly being offered by a well-known company does not have any sort of terms and conditions, then it should be treated as suspect, at least until proven otherwise.
Their Facebook Pages are New and Light On Details
Often a scam Facebook Page will be newly created and have only a few posts, most of which are supposed giveaways. And, it’s “About” section will be empty or contain a very rudimentary description. Also, the Page may not even include a link to the website of the company it claims to represent.
All of these are red flags that something is amiss. Genuine brands, especially well established, high profile ones, will likely have had a Facebook presence for a lengthy period and the Page will have many posts. And, such Pages will have fully completed About sections and almost certainly link to the company’s official website.
They Have Poor Spelling and Grammar
Scam Pages and posts often have quite poor spelling. And the grammar used may be unusual and incorrect. Sentences may be strangely worded, be in ALL CAPS, or lack proper punctuation.
Of course, all of us, including staff who manage company Facebook Pages may sometimes make spelling and grammatical errors. But, if these errors are glaringly obvious, or common, then the Page is likely not genuine.
Facebook is often a primary public profile for companies and they are thus likely to ensure to the best of their ability that their posts are well written, professionally presented, and grammatically correct.
Pages or Posts Insist That You Share on Your Timeline
Many, if not most, Facebook prize scams stipulate that you must share the promotion on Facebook as a condition of entry. As noted earlier, Facebook has quite stringent rules regarding running promotions and competitions from a Facebook Page. It is against these rules to insist that participants share material on their Timeline to enter. The rules note:
Personal Timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend’s Timeline to get additional entries”, and “tag your friends in this post to enter” are not permitted).
So, you should be wary of any supposed competition that insists that you share a post on your own timeline before entering.
Note that some small businesses and individuals who run genuine competitions may inadvertently break these rules because they don’t know about them or don’t fully understand them.
But, large brands and well-known companies will likely follow such rules more closely. So, a Page claiming to be associated with a high profile company that offers valuable prizes and insists that you share a prize post should be treated as suspect. Especially when coupled with one or more of the other scam characteristics listed here.
Be Cautious and Analyse Before Entering a Facebook Competition
So, if you come across a competition on a Facebook Page or post that has one or more of the characteristics I’ve outlined above, then you should certainly be cautious and seek further information before proceeding.
It’s possible that a poorly implemented competition might have one or two of the above characteristics and still be genuine. But, a bit of research should allow you to make an informed decision in such cases.
And, generally speaking, if a Facebook prize or promotion does have some of the characteristics listed above, you would be wise to avoid participating.