Giveaway Scams: Red Flags to Watch For
Look out for these sketchy practices, so you can bargain-hunt safely
The internet is full of great deals and giveaways, but too many bargain-hunters miss out on good deals because they’re (wisely) cautious about online scams. The internet can be a dangerous place; but if you learn the tricks scam artists use, you can feel more secure as you look for deals online. Here are a few red flags to let you know that the person you’re dealing with may be a scammer.
Asking for personal information
This is easily the biggest red flag in any giveaway offer. Crooks may ask you to submit to a credit check, or divulge personal banking information so they can deposit funds in your account. No matter what reason they may give, no legitimate giveaway will ever ask for your account number, routing number, PIN, or credit card number. There are real cash giveaways out there, but rather than requesting personal info, they will simply send you a check.
Any site or email that claims you’ve already won, or that is incredibly easy to win, should set off alarm bells for you. The goal of a legitimate giveaway is advertising and they work by offering a large number of people a small chance to win a prize. If they had to give out an expensive freebie for every sales lead they brought in, they’d go out of business. For that reason, any banner ad that invites you to launch the monkey or slap the belly to win a prize is almost certainly a scam after all, if you could really win an iPad based solely on your ability to click a button really fast, why would you ever buy one at the store? Even if you don’t want the prize, just clicking those games can put malware on your computer, so if you want to kill ten minutes, find a reputable site for flash based games instead.
Always remember giveaways are not charity. The companies who run them either want to sell you something, sign you up for something, or get your attention for a sales pitch; and if they’re going to make money, they have to earn more from the giveaway than it costs them. If someone online offers you a Caribbean cruise with subscription to their email list, they expect to bring in more money from email sales than the cruise costs them. Of course, giveaways like that can still be fun, but recognize that you’ll be one person in hundreds of thousands of applicants, so don’t count on winning. If you can’t see how a giveaway could possibly be making the company money, you’re probably missing some crucial information.
Some giveaways require you to sign up for a paid service, or offer a chance to win with purchase (like McDonalds Monopoly giveaway campaign); but when a company asks you for money in the context of a giveaway, you need to understand exactly what they’re offering you. Again, most giveaways offer a very small chance of winning so if you’re buying some product in order to qualify for a giveaway, make sure you like the product, because it’s probably all you’ll get out of the deal. If the company offers nothing in exchange for their entry fee, the giveaway is almost certainly a scam.
Your spidey-sense is tingling
You know when something is too good to be true. Giveaways that claim to require nothing, with some guaranteed, fabulous prize, are never legitimate. If you’re confronted with a giveaway like this, ask yourself: Why am I the only one taking advantage of this? If I can supposedly make thousands of dollars working from home, or win an iPad in the online equivalent of a carnival game, why isn’t everyone jumping on it? Your intuition can serve you well here; and if you’re still confused, check out an anti-fraud site for better information, or Google around and look for buzz surrounding your giveaway offer. Stay sharp, be safe, and have fun!
This is a guest post by Julia Peterson who is a writer for AndGeeks.com, a popular website that provides up-to-date news, detailed commentary, and unbiased reviews on cell phones and related topics. Julia resides in Galveston, Texas in a cozy little house in the country with her husband, young son, and their Labrador retriever, Darby.