Automated Entry Services, Fraud, Scripting, Buying, and Cheating – ways in which your Competition or Giveaway can be Exploited

Here are three factors that can undermine the integrity of your contest or sweepstake.  Depending on the nature of your entry mechanic, look out for these three risks:

Automated Entry Services

Automated entry services come in two basic flavours:

  1. A script that floods your entry database with garbage data.
  2. A paid service that real people sign up to for a fee, which auto enters into regular or well known competitions.  Now, whilst those entries haven’t read about your product, watched a video, or told their friends about the competition, those details are legitimate, and competitions if regular or well known can receive maybe tens of thousands of legitimate opt ins.

To mitigate against Automated Entry Services:

  • Explicitly disclaim their use in terms and conditions, so entries can be banned without argument over whether automated entry was permitted (amazingly, people do argue this)
  • Use things like randomised quizzes or captchas
  • Restrict entries by IP (will inevitably throw up some false positives)

Scripting/buying/exchange (primarily for votes)

In voting competitions, for most systems (be they proprietary, or via a social network like Facebook), it’s not hard to manipulate or exploit them.  Entrants can do this via:

  • Scripting or technical exploitation
  • Buying votes via Mechanical Turk systems, micro job sites like
  • Exchanging votes via horse trading/vote exchange groups on Facebook, forums, and on sites like

To mitigate against Scripting/Fraud/Buying:

  • Your best bet here is just not to have a voting competition, but if you do want one, disclaim explicitly in terms and conditions
  • Make sure your logging is top notch where possible to identify scripted entry
  • Filter and restrict by IP (may incur false positives)
  • Bear in mind manual fraud will be very difficult to police

Cheating (fraudulent entry)

Many competitions are so simple that cheating isn’t necessary.  Do expect people to share the answer, in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not the end of the world.  People do however regularly cheat in creative competitions – particularly photo or narrative competitions.

To mitigate against cheating:

  • Disclaim in explicitly in terms and conditions
  • The best way of filtering out any fraudulent entries is to use reverse searches – for example TinEye for images and Copyscape for text

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