Twitter Scams: How to Avoid Fake Prize Win Tweets on Twitter

Don't Fall for Fake Twitter "Wins"

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If you enter Twitter sweepstakes, there's a good chance that you'll receive win notifications via tweet. It's an easy way for the giveaway's sponsor to get in touch with their winners. But before you respond, you need to take a beat to make sure that the tweet is legitimate and not a cruel scam.

Some con men send fake win notifications through Twitter in an attempt to get access to your personal information by having you fill out a spoofed prize claim form. Others use the tweets to lure you to visit a website designed to infect your computer with viruses or spyware. In any case, clicking on a link in one of these fake tweets can be very bad news indeed.

So before you let your emotions sweep you away and click on that link, check out these five tips on how to tell the difference between legitimate tweets and scams:

1. Recognize How Fake Twitter Wins Look

Fake Twitter win notifications usually come as an @reply which include a congratulations message followed by a link to a website. Oftentimes, the link is disguised by using a URL shortener so that you can't see exactly what page the link leads to.

Here's an example of a scam tweet:​

@ContestsGuide Congratulations ContestsGuide! You have been chosen for our prize! http://fakewebsiteaddress.com/ContestsGuide.

The website led to a form where the recipient was asked to provide personal information, which the scammers surely planned to use for ​identity theft.

This tweet contains a few clear red flags. For example, it is very vague about which prize has been won and from which contest. That vagueness is a sign that you could be dealing with a scammer. It also doesn't include any information that couldn't be found in the victim's profile (it addresses the target by their Twitter handle).

@Replies are less trustworthy than win notifications received by direct messages because you can only get direct messages from Twitter accounts that you are following. It's far easier for scammers to simply tweet a large number of random Twitter accounts if they don't need to get you to follow them first.

2. Verify Whether You Entered the Giveaway

Even if a win notification tweet includes specific information like the name of a giveaway, it could still be a scam. Before you respond, ask yourself whether you remember entering a giveaway with that name or from that sponsor. 

If you enter more sweepstakes than you can remember, there are a couple of ways to double-check whether it's likely that you entered the giveaway in your notification. To start with, you can search for Tweets you might have sent to enter the giveaway. Just put your username in the search field on the right-hand side of the Twitter page.

If that doesn't help, you can run an internet search to see whether that company ran a giveaway with that name.

And if you received your win notice via @reply, you can "View Conversation" on Twitter to see whether they are truly responding to a post you made.

3. Has More Than One User Tweeted You About Your Win?

Most real companies will have one representative contact you about any prizes you have won. Scammers, on the other hand, may deluge you with tweets from a variety of different accounts. If you receive notices from a string of different usernames all at once, it's probably a scammer trying too hard.

4. Check Whether the User Name Seems Legitimate

Another way to verify whether your Twitter win is legit is to investigate the account that sent the tweets to see whether it seems like it's coming from a legitimate account.

To start, click on the username that sent the win notification to see if it has made other legitimate posts. If the only thing you see in their Tweets is a huge list of "winners" that they're trying to scam, it's not a legitimate win.

Does the username have a bio on the upper right-hand side of their Twitter page that describes the company they're representing?

Does the username have a proportionate amount of followers and people they're following? If no one is following them, it means that no one's found them interesting enough to read, which is unlikely for a real employee of a real company.

If they're not following anyone, they're not even trying to seem like a real account.

Has the account been verified? Some companies and celebrities verify their accounts so that you can differentiate them from scammers. PCH is a good example (though you won't receive a winning tweet from PCH. Check out how PCH notifies legitimate winners).

5. Find Out Where the Link Leads Before You Click

If your win notification includes a link to a website, check out whether that website is legitimate before you click on it. Do a Google search for the website's name and for the website's name followed by the word "scam" to see if anyone else has had problems with that site.

If the Twitter win notification has a shortened URL, you can use a service like LongURL.org to find out where the link leads before clicking on it.

If you use TweetDeck to enter Twitter sweepstakes, it has an option to show you the destination of shortened URLs before you click through. Other Twitter clients may offer similar options. If the destination does not seem legitimate, take care before clicking through.

Conclusion

Hopefully, all of your winning tweets will be from legitimate companies letting you know about great wins. But by taking a few minutes to be sure that the tweets are legitimate, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and heartache.