How to spot giveaway scams on social media

These days everyone needs to be vigilant when it comes to online communications. But with the amount of information we share online, compers are more at risk than most when it comes to scammers trying to extract personal details! 

Compers are an ideal target for social media scammers – we enter so many giveaways, it’s easy to fool us with a fake prize draw or ‘congratulations’ message. It’s especially tricky for brand new compers to identify what’s genuine and what’s not. 

As well as being cautious, we shouldn’t be too cynical either – a lot of new compers miss out on prizes because they don’t believe a winning notification is real! Many SuperLucky readers have won amazing prizes as ‘redrawn’ winners, where the original winners haven’t claimed the prize. If you’re unsure about whether a winning notification is genuine, feel free to ask for advice from the members of my Lucky Learners Facebook group

This blog post is specifically designed to help UK entrants spot giveaway scams – so some of the advice may not apply to non-UK residents. Most scammers are not UK based, so you’ll be able to spot clues in their content and communication to show it’s a scam.

In general, the warning signs of a scam on social media include:

  • Bad spelling and grammar, or a style of writing that just doesn’t seem normal
  • Excessive emoji use
  • Reference to contest, sweepstakes, shipping and other terms that are not used in the UK (we use ‘competition’ and ‘prize draw’)
  • Use of $ instead of £ signs
  • Directing ‘winners’ to visit a link – the link will usually include the brand name, in addition to something like ‘freesites.net’, or may be a ‘bit.ly’ address to disguise a dodgy website
  • Requesting your card details – they will say this is either to verify your address details or to take a small payment for your prize delivery
  • Asking you to send them a screenshot of a recovery link (they are trying to hack your account and will type this link into their browser to reset your password)
  • A brand using a personal Facebook profile rather than a brand page

The example below shows a reply to a Facebook comment on a genuine Bargain Booze giveaway. The scammer has created a new profile called BargainBooze (notice the lack of a space in the name) to catch people out.

Fake giveaways

Some scammers run fake giveaways on their social media to get more followers – then when they have lots of followers, they send out affiliate links or cryptocurrency posts. The fake prizes on offer are usually expensive trainers, gadgets, phones or games consoles. 

Other scammers will go one step further and set up a fake brand page where they can host their giveaway – the name may be similar to a genuine brand (eg. Centre Parks or Disney Holidays). They will add other content to the page in addition to the fake giveaway posts. Prizes are usually too good to be true – a hundred iPads, a car or 2 DisneyWorld trips! And entry will be simple – Like, Follow and share – to encourage as many people as possible to follow their page. One the giveaway is over, the page will start publishing posts with links to unrelated products, affiliate links or dodgy website – they might even rebrand the page completely to something different!

In general, the warning signs of a fake social media page are:

  • No website link at the top – genuine brands running giveaways are doing it to promote themselves, so they should always have an official website linked in their bio
  • An unusually low number of posts
  • Date of page creation is within the last 6 months
  • The account is following a lot of accounts – but with not many followers

The example below shows a fake British Film Festival page and giveaway (there’s no such event!) – over a thousand compers entered this competition and they were all messaged with a link to pay a fee to claim their prize. The red flags here are the use of the words CONTEST and SODA – which we don’t use in the UK – and the mention of cinema chains Pathe and UGC, which we don’t have in the UK.

Fake winning social media notifications

Fake ‘congratulations’ messages are the most common giveaway scam on social media. 

Warning signs for a scam DM:

  • You’ve been informed of a win before the closing date of the competition
  • You’re not following the profile that has sent you a DM (remember, you would have followed the REAL brand account in order to enter the giveaway!)
  • A brand profile is following you, but when you check their profile is set to private

The example below shows a fake account (with an _ added to the name) set up to follow a ‘winner’. You can see from their 328 follower count that a lot of ‘winners’ have already fallen for this and followed back.

Scammers have several ways to contact winners:

  • Using a fake brand page to run a fake giveaway, then replying to or messaging page followers to say they’ve won, with a link to claim the prize
  • Creating a new profile on Facebook and replying to entries on a genuine brand giveaway on Facebook with a Congratulations! message and a link to claim their prize (this could be an account mimicking the brand, or one with a ‘Congratulations winner!’ type of name)
  • Using a fake ‘Winner selection’ account to follow a TikTok user, then sending a DM to say they’ve won a giveaway with a link to claim the prize
  • Creating a fake Instagram profile to mimic a brand running a giveaway. There will be a slight variation in the username (for example adding an extra letter) – then they follow giveaway entrants and send a ‘Congratulations’ DM. 

The example below shows a public reply on a Facebook post, but you may receive similar by DM.

Giving your card details to claim a prize

The common purpose of these messages is to get you to complete your details on a linked web form to claim your prize – you will be expected to input your credit/debit card number and 3 digit code – either to ‘verify’ your address, or to make a small payment for prize delivery.  Once you have submitted the form, the scammer has your name, address and card details.

Watch out for 100% discount on a fake shopping site

Some scammers go one step further and set up a completely fake shopping site – they give away a prize on social media, and to claim it, you need to use a special discount code which deducts the total amount leaving you with a balance of zero to pay. However you still need to complete your credit card details to register on the website. This actually seems quite feasible – I’ve won lots of prizes where I’ve received a discount code – but putting in card details for a free order shouldn’t be required!

A SuperLucky reader got in touch with me because she was a victim of this scam. The scammers took her card details and used them to manually add the card to their own phone’s mobile wallet. Her bank sent a text message with a security code to confirm the card addition, and she input this confirmation code onto the scam website, believing it was confirming her order. The card was then successfully added to the scammer’s mobile wallet and ready for use! Luckily she realised what had happened when her friend contacted her to say she’d received the same winning message, and she cancelled her card immediately. She shared the below screenshots with me showing the process – you can see the scam site uses ‘Shoppfy’ in the address which at first glance looks like e-commerce site ‘Shopify’. This lady is an experienced comper and it just goes to show how clever some scams are!

How to report a scam

Unfortunately Facebook, TikTok, X and Instagram are pretty much useless when it comes to stopping scammers. You can report the fake accounts, but it doesn’t stop them from setting more up! 

If you fall for a scam and give card details, contact your bank immediately to get your card cancelled, and report the scam to Action Fraud either online at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime or call them between 8am and 8pm on weekdays at 0300 123 2040

Sharing personal details

You should never have to pay anything to receive a prize. Do not give out card details unless you’re shopping on a website you trust. NEVER share online banking passwords, or your credit/debit card PIN number. If you are directed to a link where you need to input this information to claim a prize, it’s a scam. 

For some genuine wins, you will need to give out your bank details to receive a cash prize – your sort code and account number. This information can only be used to make a payment into your account – it cannot be used to withdraw any money! PromoVeritas and other big agencies will ask you to do this for cash prizes, and it will sometimes be via an online form. If in doubt, ask for advice in Lucky Learners!

Have you fallen for a social media giveaway scam? Share your experiences in the comments.


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3 Responses

  1. Samuel says:

    Hello Di,
    I would like to know how pickmypostcode works.
    Do I have to do anything daily for my postcode to be selected?
    I registered on the website last week and I am a bit lost on the next line of action.
    Thanks.

    • Di says:

      Once registered, all you need to do is check the website daily for your postcode, click all the tabs at the top for the different draws, If you spot your postcode you’ll be able to claim a prize!

      • Di says:

        A postcode will only appear on the website if at least one person from that postcode is registered – so there’s ALWAYS a possible winner for every postcode shown, but often the winner isn’t checking the site so misses out on claiming their prize!

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