With the ever-increasing popularity of Facebook for personal, community and business sites, there’s been an uptick in the number of people working to scam innocent readers out of their hard-earned cash.
Pretending to be a representative of a popular company and then telling a reader he or she has won a prize is one of the most common methods of trying to separate you from your money.
Cyber scammers use big name companies such as Publishers Clearing House, HGTV's Property Brothers and name brand travel companies like Disney to try and convince Facebook users that they’ve hit the jackpot and won money, travel packages and more.
Here are five things you should look for when working to spot the difference between a legit Facebook contest and a copycat’s scam.
Look for the blue check mark
Facebook verifies all big name business-related account pages directly with the company to ensure the account is truly owned and managed by said business. Verified Facebook business sites will have a blue check mark next to their name.
If the contest site you’re visiting doesn’t have the blue check mark next to the name on its Facebook site, shut down the page and move on.
Beware of pages that look newly created
Facebook contest scam pages often look as if they’ve been newly created. They don’t have the high number of likes that you would expect from a large, name brand company and they often only have newer content displayed on the page.
If you’re looking at a company site that’s offering a big prize, be sure there’s a long history of Facebook activity on the site page and a number of likes that’s consistent with the popularity of the company.
Be leery of companies asking for money or personal information
Cyber scammers often message unsuspecting followers with their fake business accounts informing the follower that they’ve won a contest or prize. That message is then followed up with a list of things the “winner” has to do in order to claim their prize.
The list often contains requests for personal information such as a Social Security number, home address, birth date, bank account or credit card information.
If you get a request like this, avoid giving out any personal information whatsoever — no matter how legit the request might seem. Real company contests never require the winner to pay money upfront to get their prize.
Nor is there any reason to give the company access to your credit card or bank account information!
Look for telltale unprofessional signs
Facebook contest scam pages often contain a hint of professional sounding jargon mixed with a hefty dose of unprofessional lingo or other markers.
Look for things like spelling and grammatical errors, no description on timeline photos or company pages that are classified as “Community” instead of being classified under the type of business the actual company represents.
Anything that looks unprofessional should be a warning that the page may not be a legit corporation page.
Look for a dot, underscore or other small addition to the company name
One way scammers get away with being able to publish a page with the name of a large corporation is to add a period, underscore or other small change to the company name on their scammer contest site. If you see even the slightest variation on a supposed company contest page, beware that this might be a scam.
Still unsure if a page you're looking at is a scam or legit?
If you’ve followed the five tips above but still aren’t sure whether the contest you’re about to enter is a scam or phishing scheme, take these additional steps.
Check the company’s official website
A sure way to check on the validity of a contest or other promotion is to go to the company’s official website via a Google search.
The company will likely have information about the contest on their website. But even if they don’t, you can still access their official Facebook page directly from the company website.
If the contest exists on the Facebook page you’ve accessed via a link from the company’s official website, and everything still looks on the up and up, you can be relatively sure that the contest entry form is legit — even if a scammer has published another fake page mimicking an official contest.
Look for other advertising avenues for the contest
When companies are advertising legit contests and giveaways they’ll advertise not just on Facebook, but on Twitter, Pinterest and other sites as well.
If you’re suspicious about a contest you’ve found on Facebook, search the Internet for other places the company may have advertised. If you don’t find any, you might want to pass the contest by.
No amount of money or prizes can be worth compromising your money or your safety and security. If you ever have doubts about the validity of a Facebook contest, walk away and don’t take the risk.