Thursday 6 January 2011

Is this a genuine competition?

Wherever there are compers there will be scammers. I’ve already had my first timeshare call of 2011- have you? Seasoned compers soon learn to spot dodgy phone calls and those letters that promise you that you have won something that might (but almost certainly won’t) be wonderful….. if only you spend a small fortune on a phone call to find out what.

But with new ways of comping coming along all the time, the scammers have had to diversify. Recently several comps on Twitter and Facebook have turned out to be scams of various kinds. It can be very hard to tell a genuine comp from a hoax, so here are a few guidelines to look out for.

First of all, let me say that we compers need to be a bit more open minded about the competitions we enter on Twitter and Facebook than we are with more traditional ones. The law still applies to them – but a lot of them are run by individuals and small businesses who themselves are not aware of things like The Lotteries Act, the CAP guidelines and all the other legalese that surrounds competitions. They just want to interact with their customers, have a bit of fun, and hopefully attract some new business. And as long as everybody appreciates that, and the prizes ARE given away, then no harm is done. Think of it like the little old lady who runs the corner shop having a bit of a raffle to boost her profits- she really ought not to, according to the law- but it would be churlish to report her rather than popping in and buying a ticket.

However sometimes compers are deliberately misled into giving their support to an organisation that has no intention of giving away a prize. Why do they do this? Well, on Facebook the main reason is often to get you to sign up to an application which can then access all your personal information and possibly that of your friends too, and on Twitter it is to boost their number of followers as quickly as possible. In both cases, the end result is a nice big list of keen compers which they can sell over and over again to genuine – but possibly unwelcome – advertisers or possibly to spammers or more scammers. As long as they pay for the list, the seller won’t ask questions about how it is to be used.

How do you spot a scam?

On Facebook, if you have to sign up to an application, look at what it asks you to authorise it to do. It will usually ask to access your basic and profile information and may ask to post to your wall. If it asks for permission to do more than this, treat it with caution. And if it asks for a long list of permissions, run a mile!

On Twitter, first of all look at the Twitter profile of the promoter. There should be a link to the associated website – follow the link and look to see if it looks genuine. If there is no website, it may be a scam. Tweet them and ask them to send you a link – another sign of a genuine Twitter feed rather than a mechanised data-gathering system is if there is a real person around to reply to Tweets.

Then ask yourself if the prize matches the size of the organisation – if they have just a few hundred followers and are offering a prize worth hundreds of pounds, what’s in it for them? How can they justify the cost of the prize? Is it one of their own products, that they are looking to publicise? If so, it is probably genuine. But otherwise don’t be too surprised to find the competition fizzles out with either no winner being announced or the winner being an account that has only ever made a single tweet – their entry to that competition, leading you to suspect that it is another account set up by the promoter and was always going to win.

Is the promoter a “proper” business, promoting and selling products that they hope you will buy? If it is just called something like “Tweet and win” take a very close look at their website and try to work out where their money is coming from. There is no money to be made in just giving things away, they need to either be selling something, have a lot of advertising on the website or be collecting your data to sell on.

Is the prize going to be awarded when they get to a certain number of followers? If so, how realistic is it? I have seen a promoter on 100 followers say they were going to give away a prize when they reached 10,000 followers. That would be likely to take several years – are you prepared to wait that long? Whereas a promoter on 950 follower who runs a quick “Help us get to 1000” competition is being far more realistic.

Finally, is the prize an iPad? I’m sure I will get several comments from people saying they have won, and received, iPads from Twitter competitions, and indeed I know a few people who have won them, but a high proportion of the scam competitions that have been around on Twitter have offered them as prizes. After all, not only is an iPad a fashionable and attractive item, also the name doesn’t take up very many of your 140 characters - and on Twitter that is always an important consideration.


  1. Great advice as ever Jane, Thank you.

    Errr *whispers quietly* I did win an iPad on Twitter! But you're absolutely right, and ipad almost always means dodgy comp.

    I only entered because it was run by a well know credit card company, it was drawn at random, you could enter as many times as you wanted and it was a bit of effort - you had to come up with tips. I spent a couple of hours banging out tweets, and I think my entries made up about 10% of the total.

    I hate FB competitions for the very reasons you mentioned.

  2. Brilliant post Jane, I have noticed that over the last couple of months the scam comps have increased, I will try and avoid these scam comps in future by following your advice. Thank you

  3. As you know, I was caught out by a fb comp yesterday. It's so bloomin' frustrating!

  4. It all sounds so easy now!
    Personally, I would rather pop down to corner shop and buy a raffle ticket!


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