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Social Media Contests


As social media continues to become a common tool for communicating with family and friends, it is also an easy way for US consumers to connect with their favorite brands. This marketing is ideal for most brands, because it is low-cost and usually highly engaging - which helps to spread their brand. However, the ease at which someone can create an account also means it is very easy for scammers to take advantage.

Scammers will create a fake profile for a business or brand, then create a fake contest for someone to win. It usually includes an amazing prize, such as a new car, an all-inclusive vacation, a boat or RV - anything that could make you want to enter your information for a chance to win. The advantage that these scams have, is that they can often instruct people to share the post for additional chances to win - spreading their message beyond the audience it would normally gain. This not only spreads their scam, but it makes it seem more legitimate - because someone you know has shared it.

However, these contests are not legitimate and are often a risk to enter. Once you get to the form to enter the contest, you will need to provide your personal information. Some forms might even ask for financial information in order to provide the correct tax forms - should you win. These contests might require a registration fee or offer the chance to purchase an item for additional chances to win. 

The goal of the scammer isn't to just get your information, though. They want to know who your friends are that comment on their contest, they want to look at your profile to see what photos are public. While at the core of the scam is just a simple attempt to gain information to use for other scams, social media presents an unusual opportunity for a scammer to get to know more about their target in order to build a better scam - a more believable scam to target you with.

Here's how to avoid these scams:

Always ensure the post in your feed is from the actual brand or business. Their page should be verified and should have additional content that is related to their brand. They should have a very large follower count and should have links to their official website.  The contest should have a link to their official rules and that should also be easy to find on their official website. Do not click any links on any suspicious contest, instead search for the information directly.

Keep private things private on your social media. Fun games that ask you to fill out surveys that can provide personal information to scammers should be avoided, especially if you can think of any way that information can be linked to any of your passwords. 

Remember to check your friends list. More often people will receive friend requests and be granted access without a second thought. Other times accounts that have been long abandoned will be easy targets for scammers to hack and abuse. If you know the person in real life and they begin posting unusual things, check in with them to see if they have been hacked. Do not message them within the app, instead contact them through means outside of social media.

Paying for a prize is not winning a contest. No legitimate business or brand will require you to make a purchase to enter a contest. In fact, it is illegal for them to do so. All contests run by legitimate businesses are required by law to provide a 'no-purchase-necessary' means of entering the contest. If they do not have that option, do not enter the contest.

Winning a contest can be exciting and the allure of a great prize is hard to resist, but consider the risk before you submit your information into any form online. If you have a friend that has shared a contest that raises red flags for you, suggest they unshare the post and warn them if they have entered any personal information into the form or paid for anything. This will allow them to take any needed precautions and possibly dispute any charges. Remember the Golden Rule that if it is too good to be true, it probably isn't.

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