contest crimeLogic would dictate that when the Journal de Montreal broke the story of the cheating ring last year contest fraud would drop of or cease all together.

I saw the posts. Contestors were reaching out to sponsors and agencies making them aware of the problem. Companies were thanking us for the ‘heads up’.

And nothing changed.

I know this because almost a year later, the ring leader was still selling his wins on Kijiji.

Why?

Why do companies allow cheating to continue?

I originally stated: sponsors and agencies are either:

  • naive,
  • arrogant,
  • ignorant,
  • or indifferent.

Let me take that a step further.

Companies and agencies don’t want to admit the cheating occurs because money and jobs would be lost. Let me explain.

Scenario 1

Imagine you are a mid-level Marketing Manager for a mid-sized company. You are in charge of the company’s social media channels and community management. As part of the company’s marketing plan you manage the social sweeps. Since companies don’t run promotions for free, in return they are expecting specific activities to occur: sales, brand awareness, engagement, newsletter subscribers, etc. You more than exceed your targets and your boss loves your performance. Then you find out that 50% of the entries are fake. Are you going to tell your boss no only didn’t you meet corporate expectations, but the program you set-up was hijacked? Absolutely not. You stay mum. Fix the problem the best you can and keep running contests.

Scenario 2

Imagine you are a Account Manager for an ad agency. You landed a Fortune 500 company as a client. As part of the services they hired your agency for they are going to run a national sweepstakes giving away big ticket items as prizes. Similar to companies hosting their own sweepstakes, they too are expecting specific activities to occur: sales, brand awareness, engagement, newsletter subscribers, etc. Again, you more than exceed your targets and your client is happy. So happy they are increasing their budget with your agency for the next quarter. Then you figure out that 50% of the entries are fake. Are you going to tell your  client their contest was hijacked? That all the data you promised them was worthless? Absolutely not. You stay mum. Fix the problem the best you can and keep running contests.

Prevent Cheating

I wrote a full blog post on this topic: Preventing Cheating in Contests, but even if all my suggestions are implemented, they are not 100% fail safe. Although someone will always figure out how to ‘game they system’, measures must be taken to reduce the number of fraudulent opportunities.

The apps are aware of voting fraud, but they still don’t realize people have developed bots to enter over and over again undetected. This is a problem I have no answer for. I can only hope my voice as a marketer gets loud enough so sponsors and agencies begin to realize this is a problem and more carefully vet their entry databases. It isn’t hard to figure out something is wrong when 50% of the entries come from several small towns in the same region or many have the same/similar last name.

Just as every coin has two sides, this hobby does too. As someone that prefers to focus on the positive aspects of the hobby, once in awhile one must look at the dark side. The shadow of sweepstaking.

That said, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still work together as a collective to help stamp out cheating. Just as the boy throwing starfish back into the sea, each person stopped will make a difference.

Will you keep letting sponsors and agencies know when you spot cheating?