Every year, somehow everyone on Facebook gets fooled into thinking that Southwest is giving away free flights or Ray-Bans or something absolutely ridiculous. At this point, we should all be aware that these are NOT REAL – these are made by scammers and created to specifically look like actual promotions. However, there’s a few things that can help you determine what’s a real contest and what is sadly just a scam.
- Image – Look for old logos, poorly resized images with odd placement or features that wouldn’t make sense to use on the internet. In this example, there are multiple Southwest logos (none are current), the airplane background image is pixelated and oddly sized. There is even a barcode highlighted on the image. Have you ever done anything on the internet that required a barcode? No. Barcodes are not something that a major company would use. Not to mention, the image looks like it is a coupon that is supposed to be cut out. This isn’t a grocery flyer – it’s a social media contest so why would anyone ever print it out and cut out the “coupon”? Just another sign of a poorly made dupe.
- The URL – Unless the URL is the official website, it is likely fake. In this instance, you can see the official URL, but have you ever seen a URL with two dot coms? That should be a red flag. If you go to Southwest’s actual website, do you see the contest referenced at all on the home page? Do you see the contest featured on Southwest’s social media pages? If not, that’s a red flag.
- Typos – Besides the odd capitalization and typos in the post, “Get Your Tickets now! and Fly any where!”, if you click on the link, there are multiple typos. One of the biggest airlines in the United States would not have that many typos across a huge promotion.
- The details – Is this deal too good to be true? The deal talks about “2 free tickets” but also says “Southwest $1000 Giveaway” and “limit one flight per person” – so what is the actual offer? Was Southwest really founded 90 years ago? Would Southwest actually offer all of humanity two free tickets? All of these confusing and inaccurate details show that this is not a deal offered by Southwest and is another scam. Most contests run by brands will have one specific prize, a link to contest rules, the words “#contest” or “#sweepstakes” and will have factual information about the brand (Southwest is only 49 years old). All Facebook contests also have a specific set of rules outlined by Facebook itself. A brand cannot ask a user to share on their timeline or a friend’s timeline to enter the contest. So, sharing that Ray-Bans image that you tagged 5 of your friends on is not a legitimate contest.
While Facebook is removing clickbait like this, these contests still flair up every so often thanks to your mom’s best friend’s click happy fingers. Now there are even sites whose entire mission is to state fake viral stories or promotions from the real ones. But in reality, you probably don’t even need to consult a website to see if you won 17 free plane tickets for the next year. If you’re ever wondering if a promotion is fake, just remember that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.