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If you’re entering contests online, watch out for this clever trick to steal your info

Few things spark more joy than winning a contest. Knowing that you beat out the competition gives you the sweet taste of victory. When you’re riding that high, it’s easy to slip on rose-colored glasses…instead of realizing you fell for a scam.

Online contests are hugely popular, but if you have trouble finding new opportunities, we’ve got you covered. Tap or click here for six online sweepstakes directories you won’t want to miss. Once you’ve signed up, though, don’t get your hopes up too high.

Otherwise, you could fall for this dangerous new trick, which turns the thrill of victory into an opening for attack.

How to recognize this social media scam

When scrolling through her Instagram feed, Kim spotted this common scam. Basically, when a company runs a giveaway, someone makes a fake page with a similar name. Let’s say we throw a contest from our account, @KimKomando

One of the thieves running this scam will then make up a whole new account — something like @KimKomando_contestwinners. On Instagram, many of the contests are about commenting on a post and tagging someone. That means the scammer can easily see a list of people to start messaging. 

If you’ve commented on the original contest post and you get a response from a similarly-named account, that’s a red flag. It will lure you in with an exciting message saying you’ve won…but you need to cough up some contact information to get your reward. Before you know it, you’ve given up your private details.

Whatever you do, don’t give up your payment details. Once your banking username or credit card information is out there, it isn’t easy to take back your privacy. Actually, it’s almost impossible, like putting toothpaste back into the bottle.

Speaking of which, you should set up strong security measures in case anything shady happens to your account. Tap or click for seven great ways to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.

Warning signs to watch out for

First off, double-check the account messaging you. Sometimes, you’ll get shady private messages claiming you won a contest you never entered. In that case, ignore the message and block the sender.

But if you did sign up for a contest, go back and see the original account handle. An announcement will always come from the original account that set up the contest, not another one. Just think about it logically: Why would a popular account go through the trouble to set up a second account? 

It doesn’t serve companies to make a backup social media account. When groups run contests, their main goal is to drive traffic back to the main account, its cash cow. The more likes, clicks and views an account gets, the more advertisers will want to partner up.

WISDOM FROM THE CONTEST QUEEN: How to win sweepstakes and online competitions

Basically, creating a second account serves no purpose. In fact, it might even split traffic and attention, which might hurt the content runner’s chances of bringing attention to their main account. 

That’s why you should shake your head if you see a “Congratulations!” message from an account with a different name than the contest runners. It means someone’s trying to take you for a fool. Hopefully, after this, you won’t fall for it!

Of course, there are many other ways to earn money online aside from entering contests. If you want to join the gig economy, you’ve got countless options at your fingertips. Tap or click here for ten fun and exciting ways to make a quick buck online.

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