Cheating at Online Competitions

A direct message sent to me privately on Twitter by a reader informed me that a recent winner from a competition I was running online was won by someone cheating. Sadly, this is something I have had to accept as a contest promoter and below are steps I take to try and prevent this and how people cheat on competitions.

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Cheating at Online Competitions

It is so easy for entrants cheating at online competitions to have multiple e-mail addresses and aliases. I've heard of professional compers, rather than those who enter for fun, who have hundreds of such aliases and e-mails. I do try and filter these out as they breach the Borntoloaf competition rules that I set, but it does seem to be an almost impossible task.

The same goes for social media, entrants can set up many accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, and I could spend all day trying to weed out the fake ones. Some are easy to spot, there is no photo and no social interaction with friends. But cheaters are clever and harvest photos from the web to make such accounts look plausible. Some even use special bots that automatically send entries, and some websites offer this as a service. These search out for terms like RT to Win or Like and Share to Win and send in entries on your behalf, even when you are offline.

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I use an online form at the Daily Entry Competition rather than an e-mail link and this has stopped a lot of fake entries. Though there are bots specifically set up for online competition forms entries. Using a captcha service for online forms can help deter these.

I guess it all depends on why you have set up a competition in the first place. I run mine to attract readers to my websites and social media in the example of my money competitions. So, I put up with some of the cheaters because I like the extra entries and filter out the bots as best as I can and ban users as I see fit.

I would rather that a real reader won the contests, so that their loyalty to my site is rewarded. But I'd also like the casual reader to win too, because they may go on and become a regular user of my website, which is also why I don't have a problem with folk who share the answers on forums, social media, etc. Most still come to my site to enter, unless they are paying the websites who mass enter for you. I shan't name them here as I don't agree with them and don't want these automated competition services to have any additional publicity.

In any walk of life there will be those who seek to abuse the system for their own selfish needs and sadly cheating at online competitions is no different. My advice if you are an entrant is to just enjoy the competitions as a fun way of getting prizes and if you are a contest organiser, just try and filter out the bad ones and reward the real folk who enjoy entering contests.

See also Do people really win from filling out a customer satisfaction feedback survey?

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