How to spot a scam Instagram competition

Generally, comping is a fun, exciting and positive hobby. Unfortunately there are scammers who take advantage of our enthusiastic nature to trick us into handing over personal information – email addresses, phone numbers and even ID.  

This week many compers were excited to receive the following direct message on Instagram from Crystal Travel…

Unfortunately, there was no holiday – the prize draw was a scam, every entrant received the message and many excitedly replied with photographs of their passports to the rogue Crystal Travel account. When they noticed other compers celebrating their Tenerife wins too, it became clear that they were the victims of yet another scam. 

How can we tell it’s a scam?

Here’s the competition post, from the Instagram account. It looks very believable, doesn’t it? 

But looking more closely at it, there are a few clues that it’s not genuine:

  • there are no terms and conditions. Of course, lots of promotions don’t have T&Cs –  but when it’s a big prize such as a holiday you should always see them included in the post – or at least a link to find them on a website. In this case, there’s not even a closing date!
  • the use of the word ‘vacation’. UK holiday companies never use this word. 
  • mistakes – they’ve not used a capital letter on August (on the photo) or May (in the caption). The bottom of the photo says ‘winner will be announced at Friday 24th May’ instead of on. These may look like small errors – but the marketing team of a trustworthy company wouldn’t make errors like this. 

Identifying a scam on Instagram

Lots of scam pages like link to a genuine website in their social media bios – it makes you more likely to trust them! But if you’re suspicious about a brand profile on social media, you need to go to the genuine company website first, then check the links through to social media. Search Google for that company’s name to find their website, then look for a row of icons on the home page linking to their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Click through to visit their genuine social profiles – does it link to the one you’re suspicious of? 

Other clues to spot a scam:

  • the profile/page has only recently been set up ( posted its first photo just 3 weeks ago)
  • spelling mistakes in post captions or bio
  • no verified tick next to their name (this is only relevant to larger brands, a lot of smaller genuine companies won’t have a tick)
  • their posts aren’t actually advertising their product or service (ask yourself – if they’re not promoting what they do/sell, what’s the point of the account?)

Should I ever give my passport details?

Occasionally, you will be asked for passport details to claim a competition prize – for example to prove you’re old enough to win an alcoholic prize. In this case, you can block out any information apart from your name, photo and date of birth. For holiday prizes, you would only give passport details when you’ve already had communication with the promoter about dates, airports, flight times etc. If you’re asked for passport details and you feel uncomfortable sending them, you should let the promoter know this – there may be an alternative option. If you’ve sent passport details to a fake page and are worried about identity theft, you should register with a credit reference agency such as Credit Karma – and monitor your account for signs of suspicious activity. 

Find out more about identity theft on the Action Fraud website

What to do if you encounter a scam on Instagram

  • Make the genuine profile aware of the imposter
  • Go to the profile, tap the at the top of the page and then tap Report – choose It’s Spam (unfortunately there’s no more detailed options – it would be good to have an ‘imitating a real account’ option!)
  • Do the same to report the individual competition post(s)
  • If you’re a member of a competition forum or groups, post a warning to other compers about the scam

Please be vigilant when comping! Scams are rare but falling for them can be desperately disappointing – and risky – so do remind fellow compers to double check before giving out any personal information. 

You can also read my blog posts with advice on spotting Facebook, text and email scams:

4 Responses

  1. Roger Bufton says:

    The one thing you miss out, Is If a site you entered a competition on, send you a message, It will have you following them, But scammers, will not have this, so It will ask you to follow.

  2. Jenny Bingham says:

    I had a message on Instagram to say i have won a exercise bike was so excited you had to click a link and then enter you bank details! I sent a message back and they said it’s just formal and they dont charge you I unlike there page then added me again I told them they am a scam but said they wasnt and I had won

  3. Christine Purcell says:

    For any comp I enter whether it be Twitter, Insta or FB I always go to the company website and click on the social media link on the website. If I can’t find one I simply just don’t enter.

  4. Chevaune Stanley says:

    Excellent always!

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