/ Scams

Scam watch: winning a competition you didn’t enter

Being told you’ve won a competition may sound like great news at first, but think back – do you even remember entering one?

Earlier this year we received a message from a member of the public who enters a lot of competitions on Facebook. She told us that she’d received a direct message from an account that looked just like Currys PC World, saying that she’d won a television and a set of Bluetooth speakers.

The messages asked her to confirm her name, mobile number and delivery address, which she did. But later she was asked for her card details to cover the cost of delivering the ‘prizes’, at which point she fortunately realised that something wasn’t right.

But should she be worried about the details she’d already shared with the fraudsters?

Convincing copycat accounts

Fraudsters can create convincing copycat social media accounts to contact victims, claiming they’ve won a prize. They target people based on social media activity and interests, and they can catch you out with offers that make sense in the moment.

We’ve seen a very similar scam before involving a fake competition to win a 65″ TV. A spokesperson for Currys at the time told us that fake accounts are immediately reported to the appropriate platforms and closed down. It said customers should only engage with its verified accounts, which carry the ‘blue tick’ badge.

In this case, it rang alarm bells when the scammers asked the victim to pay, and rightly so. Big brands wouldn’t expect a competition winner to pay for the cost of delivering a prize.

It’s possible the victims’ payment details would then have been used for something else.

Guide: how to spot a scam

Guide: how to get your money back after a scam

Verify your private messages

You should always check to see who’s really sending you private messages. Is it a verified brand account? Do you remember entering the competition?

If you’re unsure, contact the company’s customer services on a verifiable number and ask whether it’s genuine. It’s unlikely much harm will come from the details given away in this case, but we advised the member of the public to regularly check her credit report for unrecognised accounts, and watch out for unexpected bills.

In these situations you could also join the Cifas Protective Registration service, which sends an alert if your details are used to sign up for financial products.

Have you ever been sent a private message on social media out of the blue, telling you you’ve won a competition or anything else? Let us know in the comments and help keep friends and family safe online by spreading the word.

Comments

This has happened to me numerous times, last week only seems to be via instagram. If I leave a comment on a brands page a random (and what I assume to be ) “bot” account has asked me to DM saying I’ve won a prize. Really strange but can’t help but think how many may fall victim to this.

Many scams are based on incentives such as prizes or getting products, holidays, etc. at a bargain price. I don’t enter competitions, so assume that I am unlikely to win anything.

Mr. Daniel Pimental says:
8 September 2021

If you ask people to enter by commenting with opinions or preferences, you gather valuable data you can use for future campaigns. Obviously, if you’re running a ‘like to win’ competition, hosting your competition on social . Now, you’ve just got to close your contest on a winning note. … a special discount or to join your mailing list to be notified of your future contests.

Frances Heaton says:
10 September 2021

I enter some competitions on Facebook and have received many fake messages asking to follow me, and stating that I have a the competition. Sometimes many days before the competition has actually closed!

I always check to see whether the account has a blue tick at the side of their name, (which a verified company usually has), look at their posts, and check details about them. Then I tell the genuine company about the attempted scam, block them, and report to Facebook. Not sure whether they actually do anything though.

I do exactly the same as Frances Heaton. I also report by forwarding by email to report@phishing.gov.org and phishing@the companyname.
If you receive an email you can access the raw letter and see the sender’s address.
Facebook are unhelpful and always say the ‘winning’ notification sites are genuine.

I had a winning notification on Twitter a couple of months ago. I had entered a Twitter competition to win a camping set a few days before and the prize details were accurate and the message well worded. However, I remembered that the closing date was a week away! I contacted the company via their actual account and they confirmed it was a fake message from a fake site. The company Twitter address was slightly different! I reported the site, as did the genuine company.
Always important to contact the company via their official customer services or social media site rather than following any links.

If you enter lots of competitions you should keep a record of them all when you enter. Things like end date, where you entered (FB/website/etc), prize, entry fee (if applicable). That way you know exactly what you are doing and what competitions you are actually in. Any competition that requires any sort of “fee” should be checked out in detail. Remember “Google is your friend”.

Marion Brooker says:
10 September 2021

I was recently sent a private message from Wetherspoons saying I’d won a voucher. I deleted it without accepting. Strangely enough it popped up immediately after I’d commented on a Wetherspoons page that what they were offering of a free meal for two with drinks was a scam and warned others. The Facebook page was a so called fan page and nothing actually to do with the company but many people I think thought it was.

I was contacted by a friend on social media saying she had won 50,000 in cash. She sent me the link because apparently she saw my name on the winners list. I did check the link and sent a mess to a lady who looked to be in her 80’s on her profile. She said I had won, she then sent a form with numerous questions asking for personal information such as my annual income, do I own my home etc. I said I am suspicious. She mess me the next day to ask If I wanted to proceed, I ignored It. My friend said she had 50,000 in cash delivered to her door. I cannot see how she would get 50,000 in cash delivered to her door!!! If she had of won a prize, it would surely be a cheque. This seemed to be a promotion for the disabled. I am not convinced this is legitimate. I wasn’t going to answer personal questions, I don’t know what to think. My friend kept mess me asking if I had claimed my prize. I said no, I am suspicious. My friend hasn’t contacted me since. Wonder what others think about this and how would they react.

I would wonder if those messages are actually from your friend. Call her and ask her in a phone call. I would bet 50,000 that they are not from her but all part of the scam.

I was told similar in a message saying my cousin had won a large amount and I was in line to win £80,000 all I had to do was pay the delivery charge. All the morning I kept thinking this sounds so genuine, however although I rarely have telephone communication with my cousin I went on her facebook and thank god she had put her mobile on it so I rang her and she said no she had not received anything. I was so near to doing it and had my husband been in I might have done but he was out and I thought I would wait until he came in and in the interim found out that it was a scam, so glad I did not proceed.

Definitely a scam, do not click any links in emails, if you could have won something, say premium bonds and they have lost contact with you, you could ring them directly via the official phone number off their official website but no one will ever offer to turn up at your door with cash.

Peacheater
Thanks for your comment, I hadn’t thought about that. It seemed strange that my friend was being persistent as if she was rushing me to respond to the prize money. I also said to my friend, you would need to declare the money to the DWP, as she is on benefits. She said she had the money and paid her bills and was taking the rest to the bank. She didn’t respond to them mess. I hope the scammer is not using my name to mess others. I don’t have my friends phone num but will try and find out and phone her.

May not have been your friend. Myself and others received similar messages from a colleague. He knew nothing about it so it transpired he had been hacked. The English used gave it away as it was not the sort of language he would use.

Raymond says:
10 September 2021

I fell for a scam via f.b. it looked genuine to buy something useful.cost me £34 but all they sent was a pair of kitchen tongs.the scam was the parcel was tracked.as delivered not what was in the box..paypal refused a refund saying i had received the goods..not what i ordered though so lost my money. Be careful what you order..how do we know a genuine site.? As i have ordered things before on f.b. and received them ok.

Deborah Scott says:
10 September 2021

This happened to me. I never received an order. Complained to PayPal – company showed parcel was tracked and delivered so that was the end of PayPal’s involvement. Incidentally it was a cat house for the garden and was tracked as ‘delivered via letterbox’; it must have been a very small cathouse!

Read the terms of the PayPal User Agreement and follow the advice in the Complaints section. Always exhaust all the options by contacting PayPal direct before trying the ombudsman.
https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/ua/useragreement-full#resolving

I get about 5 a day at the least sometimes more and they are very convincing but I know they are a scam. There are also the other ones where the small print at the end says you are joining agambling site and if you do not read them they cost about £79 a month unless you cancel within so many days.

Pauline Biddlecombe says:
10 September 2021

I had an email from “Tesco” saying I had won a £100 gift card in a draw I had entered. No draw, & I rarely shop there. Also a similar one from “Waitrose”. I mentioned this to the help desk & they knew nothing about it & would investigate. I always say, if it’s too good to be true, it isn’t.

I had a friend mess me on social media saying she had won 50,000 in cash. She said she saw my name on the winners list, sent me a link. I wanted to check this out, the link took me to a lady that looked to be in her 80’s. I mess her to ask what it was about. She said i had won a prize in cash, wouldn’t say how much. She said I needed to fill a form in on mess, the form asked for lots of personal details… ” Do I own my home “. ” My annual Income “. etc. I said I was suspicious. She mess me the next day and asked if i was going to claim my prize. I didn’t respond. My friend kept sending me mess asking If I had claimed my money in cash. I said no I am suspicious. She said she received 50,000 in cash brought to her door by a delivery driver. My friend has not contacted me since. I got the impression that it was a promotion for the disabled. I don’t know what to think, I hadn’t entered anything. I feel it’s a scam, a genuine company would not send 50,000 in cash to your door!! What do others think.

Elizabeth — I think a scammer has hacked into your friend’s e-mail system or social media account and is impersonating her.

The scammer is mimicking your friend’s writing style so you think it really is her and is telling you [falsely] that she has won a large amount of money in order to convince you that her message is plausible and genuine.

I feel you should check the story out with your friend as quickly as possible since the scam might also be targeting other people on your friend’s contact list. Your friend might be entirely unaware of what is being done in her name. She might wish to consider changing her e-mail address and informing all her contacts warning them not to act upon any such message.

Eunice Simm says:
10 September 2021

I’ve had lots of emails saying I’ve won but I have not entered anything I’m not very good with doing things on line and I’m so glad I just deleted anything that says I’ve won because I know I haven’t.

Keith Cash says:
10 September 2021

I have had something only this morning Friday 10th September tell me I have won a competition at Morrison’s and the day before it was Sainsbury’s

Julie Hudson says:
10 September 2021

I Googled something the other day, a message came up to say I was something like the 90 millionth googler and I had won an IPad, I didn’t trust it so ignored it.
Hope it wasn’t real!!

Why do we have scammers?
We didn’t have Scammers when I first got a mobile phone??

“Why do we have scammers?”

Because the technology, approved by our Parliament, is full of security holes. It is the same over most of the (free) world (but much less so in authoritarian regimes).

Perfectly possible to redesign the internet protocols and telephony standards to prevent this, but it would require a complete redesign of the core system.

So, why did politicians all over the world allow this scandalous situation? Because they do not have the required technical and scientific skills to understand such things. When was last time a research electronics scientist or cryptographer got elected to any Parliament?

I get loads of these and usually forward them to report@phishing.gov.U.K. . The question that I would like help with is whether to block tgat contact , delete it or to flow the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the page. I get the feeling that blocking it is a waste of time since the next one will come from a slightly different address, and wonder whether, by following the unsubscribe link, I am confirming that my email address is active and possibly leaving myself open to a further deluge. Best just to delete it?

I get loads of these and often forward them to report@phishing.gov.uk which is quick and easy. The problem is what to do with it next.
1.Block the sender and delete the email. The disadvantage of this may be that it could be a waste of time to block the sender since the next one will come from a different address
2. Just delete the email
3. Follow the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. My worry here is that, by unsubscribing, I am confirming that my email address is active, and I may get further targeted.
Any ideas?

Brian Baxter says:
10 September 2021

On several occasions, when logging on on my iPad, I have been told I qualified for a free iPhone. Wow. How can you refuse? Easily!

On another occasion, I won £225K in the People’s Post Code lottery despite not entering and the postcode being incorrect. They wanted my CC details for any costs involved. Reported to Fraud Squad
who said the address given to me was the HQ of NatWest Bank.

Hazel Hughes says:
10 September 2021

This has happened to me many times.I have won a voucher from Aldi,Morrison’s.gifts from other big names.so glad you have brought this out in the open so it will help others.