It’s no wonder everyone loves the idea of winning something for nothing. After all, it’s a part of human nature! Unfortunately, since we started living our lives online over the past decade or so, cybercriminals have cleverly taken advantage by creating sneaky fake prize scams that look too good to be true. Before you know it – Bam! You’ve been scammed and your payment info is stolen (or worse).
It’s easy enough to fall into their trap when you see an exciting message about winning a gift card, car, or piece of tech. Make sure you stay alert when someone dangles “free money” in front of you and educate all your loved ones on how to recognize online prize scams.
What Are Online Competition Scams?
Have you ever received a notification that you won something huge in an online competition? You might not even have signed up for that competition, but you’re still tempted to investigate. These ‘prizes’ are often nothing more than fake scams designed to take your hard-earned money or private data. If something feels off, think twice about clicking on a link or following their instructions.
If the offer requires filling out forms, perhaps followed by payment fees, this is almost always a sign of fraud. Don’t let the lure of a free prize blind you to potential scams. Common giveaway items tend to make these social media prize scams even harder to detect so, before getting excited about any unexpected winnings, check if they’re legit first!
Giveaway Scams Have Taken Over Social Media
If you’ve been scrolling through your social media feeds lately, chances are you’ve come across a post promising a chance to win some epic prize in exchange for a simple like, share, and comment. What many people fail to realize is that these giveaways can often be scams. Cybersecurity experts from Group-IB estimate more than $80 million per month in damages caused by a single scam network impersonating famous brands.
You’ll find prize scams all over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and even WhatsApp. So here are some examples of scams that are going on right now!
Quiz Scams on Facebook
Facebook is a massive social media platform, so it’s also a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Steer clear of those quizzes that appear while you’re browsing Facebook! They might seem like innocent fun, but they could be a total scam. If the quiz asks for your personal info or money at the end, it’s definitely not legit. Don’t give away any private details and don’t feel pressured to pay for something.
Also, watch out for fake coupon codes that might pop up on Facebook. The links will lead you to malicious sites which infect your computer with malware to steal all sorts of personal information. Alternatively, they’ll ask you to fill out a form and you end up giving your info to cybercriminals willingly.
On top of that, you’ll also find giveaway scams where you enter the giveaway, and you’re automatically notified as a winner. Needless to say, you won’t see any prize.
The Facebook Rewards Program Scam
Facebook has had loyalty schemes for both consumers and creators in the past but it’s not a random event as scammers would like you to think. Facebook also tested out a rewards program on consumers a few years ago but it never became an official thing. The rewards program let selected Facebook users redeem rewards when they made a purchase at a participating store, but the program was scrapped soon after.
This didn’t stop scammers from jumping on the bandwagon and creating posts where they pose as the company. In these scams, they’ll send you legitimate-looking messages saying they’re giving away money to Facebook users (the exact premise as to why differs). All you have to do is fill in a form with some very personal information, like your bank information and social security number.
Sometimes the scammers will also pose as a “Facebook Lottery” which doesn’t exist.
You will find some online scams on Instagram too. If you share your email after entering a giveaway, the scammers will send phishing emails to you where they try to grab your login info for various sites, including your bank accounts. Some fake giveaways will notify you directly that in order to claim your prize, you will have to share your banking details.
Also, be wary of giveaways that promise free cryptocurrency or crypto investment opportunities. If you click on the link the scammers send you, you’re likely to install malware or a mining tool on your device. Protect yourself by avoiding suspicious links or offers with too-good-to-be-true promises!
Phishing on Twitter
Twitter’s teeming with malicious scams, particularly those that involve phishing techniques. Fake giveaways can contain dangerous keyloggers and viruses, while bogus links prompt you to log in so scammers access your personal information.
Double-check every link that comes your way and make sure it’s from a legitimate source. You should approach shortened links (like bit.ly) with caution. Cybercriminals use them to hide the URL so algorithms can’t catch any known shady links and people can’t see the full link before clicking. Shortened links used to be common on Twitter because the URL added to the word count but that was changed a few years ago so people generally just post full URLs now.
Scammers will even use hijacked accounts to impersonate someone you know. For example, not so long ago a teenager hacked Joe Biden’s Twitter account and scammed people by promising to send them $2000 for every $1000 they send.
Impersonating Famous YouTubers
YouTube is a breeding ground for malicious scammers, who deceitfully duplicate the look of top influencers in order to mislead those unfamiliar with their content. A good example would be the Mr Beast scams, where scammers are replicating the image and account name of the influencer, and encourage people to click the links they provide. This happens to a lot of very popular YouTube personalities.
You can find these scams in the comments for the most part, and the only way to figure out if the account is legit or not is by visiting it. You’ll also notice that scam accounts don’t have the platform’s verified checkmark either, so don’t fall for appearances.
How to Recognize Fake Giveaway Scams
Although online and social media prize scams seem very appealing when you first see them, you need to realize one thing. If it feels off to you for any reason, even if you can’t pinpoint why, stop and examine the post or message before clicking on any links.
Aside from following your instinct, you should look for the red flags below:
- If a giveaway message asks you for personal or confidential information, that’s a major red flag. The last thing a legit giveaway will require from your side is any type of sensitive information like credit card info, login info, or anything like that.
- If the giveaway requires you to pay for shipping, or just pay anything in general, that’s another red flag. A legit giveaway will never require you to pay for anything. They will just need shipping info so they know where to send the item. If a giveaway website needs a lot of info from you and also any form of payment, then you’re most likely dealing with a scam.
- Pay attention to any type of attachments or downloads. If the site is legit, it will never require you to download anything. However, scammers might ask you to download a file so that they can inject your system with malware. Never open any attachments from unsolicited emails.
- You are promised big prizes in return for a small fee. If someone promises to double your purchase or investment, you’re dealing with a scammer. Even if the profile looks like it belongs to someone famous like Elon Musk.
- Scammers will try to put pressure on you or give you a really tight deadline. They hope to bypass your common sense by making you act quickly. It’s easy to overlook red flags when you freak out about losing a massive opportunity. Keep your cool.
Now that you know what online giveaway scams look like, let’s talk about what you can do to protect yourself from them.
How to Stay Safe from Online Prize Scams
With a little bit of knowledge and some common-sense safety precautions, you can protect yourself from getting duped by an unscrupulous prize promoter.
- Avoid dodgy-looking accounts. If you receive a comment or message from an account, check it out first. If it’s a new account, it’s definitely a scam. If the account poses as a company or influencer but isn’t verified, it’s likely a scam. Also, avoid accounts posting offers in the comments of other posts.
- Only interact with the original account. If you take part in a giveaway, don’t accept follows or messages from any accounts impersonating the company or influencer. Usually, these will be called something like “companygiveaway” or “giveawaywinners” and will have a link you should click on to claim your prize. Instagram scammers are especially guilty of this.
- Think twice about messages from friends. Don’t instantly click on messages from friends or family with a link to a giveaway that takes you off of the platform. It’s possible their account has been hacked or they’re just unaware it’s a scam.
- Don’t click on unsolicited links. Check the domain name and see where the link is coming from. If the website domain is questionable or not a domain you know, then it’s a much better idea to stay away from it. The domain part of a URL is the part that comes after the www.
- Don’t share your personal information. Think about the type of prize on offer and whether the requested data makes sense. For example, a company offering a holiday giveaway might ask for some more personal information like a copy of your ID. A company giving away a cash prize or some of its products doesn’t need that information.
- Never send any money. If you really won something, the competition organizer will ship you your prize and that’s it. You shouldn’t have to pay for anything. On the other hand, scammers will ask you to pay a small fee, usually a shipping fee, before you get your winnings. They often send you a payment link as well to steal your financial data. Don’t click on any links and don’t give them any money.
- Encrypt your connection with a VPN. Use CyberGhost VPN to protect your digital identity from scammers. A premium VPN hides your real IP address and makes your data unreadable to outsiders. Even if someone gets your data, they first have to decipher it and that is nearly impossible thanks to the 256-bit AES VPNencryption we use.
- Don’t download any files. Protect yourself by only downloading files from trusted sources and avoid file attachments coming from social media channels.
Above all, use your common sense and fight your instinct to react without investigating first. Check who is running the giveaway event. Make sure the channel or website is legitimate and don’t ever pay for anything with your money or personal data.
Shield Yourself from Scammers with CyberGhost VPN
A premium VPN hides your online activity and history from your ISP, cybercriminals, scammers, and even your family. CyberGhost VPN helps you stay safe by changing your IP address, geolocation, and other identifying markers, and encrypts your data before it even hits your router (unless it’s installed on your router). Just don’t enter your credit card information on scammy links because that’s out of anyone’s hands.
As long as you don’t give away your data willingly, CyberGhost VPN will help protect you from snoopers and scammers. Install our VPN apps on all your devices, connect to a VPN server, and conceal your data from prying eyes.
Giveaway scams are a type of fraud that uses social media platforms to lure unsuspecting victims into providing personal information or money. They generally take the form of an offer claiming a substantial prize will be given away if the victim follows certain steps, such as clicking on links or providing personal details. In reality, these giveaways are usually run by scammers intending to steal their victims’ data or money.
Identifying giveaway scams requires careful attention. So remember that no legit entity would ever ask for sensitive personal information like your credit card details in exchange for supposed winnings. When this happens it is most likely a scam! Protect your digital identity and don’t share your data with anyone.
It never hurts to be cautious when it comes to rewards and giveaways! You may have seen enticing posts, comments, or messages claiming you can get a free product simply by filling out a form. However, these ads are usually nothing more than scams.
Being aware of fraudulent crypto activities is key to avoiding them. Cybercriminals often use social engineering to convince you to hand over personal information like banking details or even download malicious software onto your devices; neither of which results in any sort of reward at all! If it seems too good to be true, then it likely is.
Stay informed and know the signs: if there are any hidden costs not explicitly stated, then the giveaway probably isn’t real.
Avoiding online competition scams can be tricky, especially if you love the feeling of getting free swag. The best way to stay safe is to practice due diligence when looking into online competitions. Read the fine print carefully and research the company behind the offer.
Don’t give out more information than necessary and always check reviews online to make sure they have a solid reputation. Finally, avoid offers that require an upfront fee to enter or those with unclear deadlines or conditions; these are often scams designed to take your money or personal data. Also, get CyberGhost VPN on all your devices to keep your personal and browsing data away from snoopers.
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