Often, we see posts of giveaways on social media platforms, mostly YouTube and Instagram. To win free groceries, designer clothes, a ticket to a music concert, to test their products, or get more followers or another substantial prize that promotes their brand value, all you need to do is, follow, like or comment on the post, and you’ll get an entry in the giveaway’s lucky draw.
Sounds straightforward and simple to become a winner, right? The catch is that several ‘giveaways’ do not exist at all. They are created by fake social media influencers as it’s the easiest way of accumulating social media “likes and followers”.
How does the fake giveaway work?
It’s similar to phishing, in the sense that while the user believes they are participating in a legitimate giveaway, promoting their products, services or offerings, instead they are actually becoming followers or subscribers. This technique is referred to as pharming and has several different aims.
Most of the time the giveaway posts are harmless albeit fake. Once the fake giveaway page has targeted likes, followers, subscribers, comments and shares, they will re-edit the profile and add something infectious, such as a short link to give away the contest of next level or could have malware with an objective to seize their social accounts for a ransom or sometimes rename to another profile name and sell it for someone looking for an existing page having a higher number of followers/subscribers.
It’s a common observation on social channels that once the scammer reaches the expected number of subscribers/followers, they change the page’s original content and use it to promote fake products or sell user data on the dark web. Take, for example, a non-profit organisation organising a weekly quiz and announcing a prize of Rs 5,000 and it mandates them to follow social media channels to be eligible to participate in the quiz and announce a random winner without any validation, the sole purpose of this quiz is to increase the followers or subscribers.
What does the law say?
There are many laws in India to control and monitor, sweepstakes, giveaways lottery, and gambling (a) Public Gambling Act 1867 (b) Lottery Regulation Act 1998, and (c) Price Competition Act 1955, it’s a cognizable offence based on the severity of the crime.
People are now measured online by their likes, followers, subscribers, comments, and reviews, in the given scenario, you could be mistakenly following riffraff or a vagabond or a scammer and losing money and reputation for good.
It’s a serious issue for consideration in India to come up with a comprehensive social media compliance and guidelines law that validates social media influencers claims i.e. Eligibility, Participation, Winner Selection Rules and also add statutory guidelines to the social media influencers while collecting personal and sensitive information i.e. Name, Email Id, Aadhar card, Pan card, Demat account, etc.
Protect yourself from fake media giveaways: –
* Rules and Guidelines
A legitimate social channels giveaway will always have entry rules and guidelines for the contestants to follow in order to be eligible to participate and win the giveaway.
* Verified Accounts
Almost all social media platforms verify the pages for brands and celebrities so that users can differentiate between real v/s fake pages.
* New Accounts
If it’s a new profile and has little content, it could be a red flag. If you still think a giveaway is real, check business or celebrity’s profile to check for authenticity – more often we see new (fake and fan) profiles attempting to do such giveaways.
* Improper English & Grammar
Often we see impersonated logos, profiles, and spelling blunders and typos in their give-away which is a warning sign of a scam.
* Asking for too many tasks
Few social channels might ask you to subscribe, follow, comment on multiple posts, follow several social channels, with these types of requests, we must understand that it is impossible to keep track of everyone participating and often they pick a random winner.
Some of the giveaways are real, but scammers often impersonate as if they are part of an official celebrity or an official page. Do not Subscribe, Like, Share, Comment, or Follow every post in your feed, you are becoming an unsuspecting agent of the vested interests (scammers) who want that oversight mechanism to do a social engineering crime further.
Stay Tuned to Cyber Talk Column, to know more on internet ethics and digital wellness brought to you by Anil Rachamalla, End Now Foundation, www.endnowfoundation.org