There are a lot of giveaway scams online. Years ago, those scams looked like free Xboxes, iPhones, Razrs, and whatever the hot electronic gadget was at the time. For those giveaways, you had to sign up for a bunch of different services, remember to cancel them or get billed (and sometimes canceling was very hard), and hardly anyone ever got anything. It was a straight up scam.
These days, the giveaway scams are simpler and less likely to cost you any money. They are still just as useless to you since you could have spent that time entering a legitimate giveaway where you could win a real prize. Today, I’ll explain how you can spot a giveaway scam from a legitimate giveaway so you don’t waste your precious time.
Most giveaways will have a sponsor. It’s either the site that is hosting the contest, as we often do here, or it’s a company providing the product that’s given away, as if often the case on mommy and coupon blog sites. If you see a legitimate company, like a Wal-Mart, Babies R Us, or the like – then you can be assured it’s legitimate. Those companies wouldn’t want to be associated with anything that even hints at a scam and they have lawyers and tech guys scanning the web for misuse of their brand name.
Relatively Extensive Terms & Conditions
Legitimate companies big and small are aware of the pitfalls of running a contest improperly so you’ll often see terms & conditions that span several pages. It’ll talk about how you enter, when it starts and ends, eligibility, odds, prizes, jurisdiction, etc. You won’t see as extensive a T&C on a smaller blog but look for something. Anything. If there’s absolutely nothing, be wary.
The Host Site is Real
If a giveaway is being hosted on a site with nothing else on it, leave. I wouldn’t trust it. Would you trust a site that had nothing else but a single page collecting emails and “promising” to give away some gift cards? Probably not. There’s no proof that the host is legitimate so there’s no reason to believe the giveaway is legitimate.
It’s also important that you can get to the sweepstakes page from somewhere else on the site. If it’s an orphaned page (you can’t reach it from the homepage easily), that’s a warning sign. If they’re legit, they should be promoting it on their own homepage, not hiding it.
Some sites simply promise to give you something for free. It’s not a contest or giveaway, they’re simply giving you a product for free if you like their page or sign up for some newsletter. Those are almost always scams. Those products are usually worth hundreds of dollars and your email or your “like” is not worth that much. People who buy and sell email and likes (and there are plenty of folks out there) value those things in cents, like less than ten cents, and they aren’t going to give you a free iPad for your trouble.
Why do giveaways exist? If you value those things in cents then you can give away one iPad if you get a few thousand likes and email signups. In this case, the economics work out and you have more confidence the giveaway is real.
Trust Your Gut
It’s hard to quantify everything you should look for, but I like to trust my gut. There are just things that don’t seem “right” about some giveaways. A random Facebook page that is giving away free Southwest flights? Probably not how Southwest would run a promotion. A random website on the Internet giving away free iPads? Again, not how Apple would run it. If it sounds too good to be true or the site looks like a scam… it probably is.