No one would ever tell you that a contest platform can’t be gamed. If you are giving away something with significant value then people will try and game any system to take advantage of it.
At KickoffLabs our customers HAVE given away several thousands of dollars worth of credits, products, cash, and other prizes in enormously successful contests. They have done so with confidence that they have the guidance and tools to avoid awarding scammers. Here’s how we can help and how you can help yourself feel more confident.
Automatic Detection at KickoffLabs
Using our Advanced Fraud Prevention, Business and Enterprise level plans get access to smart tools to help stop scammers.
1. Verified lead campaigns.
You can enable Campaign Lead Verification. This is the safest solution for contests with significant value because it will require individuals to manually confirm their entry in the contest via email (commonly known as double opt-in).
No reward emails or totals will be sent to people that have not verified. If a verified account refers 100 unverified fake signups those signups will NOT count in their totals.
2. Advanced IP blocking.
Using Lead Filtering, all leads should have a unique IP address. Any duplicate IP addresses are automatically marked as suspicious. Leads and referrals from those addresses will not count in any totals that are used for automatic emails or reward distribution.
If you expect multiple signups from a trusted shared network, you can white list IP addresses (for example from an office, university, public workspace, etc).
3. Invalid email addresses are flagged.
If an email address bounces we clearly mark it in your Lead Reports. This does require turning on the Automatic Reply Email.
4. Fake addresses are flagged.
Additionally, we automatically detect disposable emails (like from Mailinator and 1,000’s of other bad email domains) which are also clearly marked in your Lead Reports.
Manual Detection Made Simpler with KickoffLabs
Before awarding overall winners and top prizes we recommend someone do a human sanity check on the “winner”. We have a lot of data, that most platforms don’t, that makes this check extremely simple to do.
There are generally obvious indicators to ANY person who handles the prize distribution. By simply looking at the list of referrals someone has generated you can a lot more than the IP address with KickoffLabs:
A general checklist when looking at the list of people someone has referred to validate them. Here is an example of someones referral list with a bunch of fake data that’s easy to spot:
From this image, and our tools, here is what you’ll be able to check at a glance:
1. If the IP addresses are all the same.
This is an indication that they all used the same computer to sign up. If you see this repeatedly you may want to enable IP blocking from our campaign settings to block the bad IP addresses.
2. If the email address look fake…
They probably are. We’ve seen people generate email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc. In most cases the dummy gmail accounts come with a pattern that’s easy to spot.
3. If there is no social data available.
For every email address we collect we also search the web for social data about the person. In the case of the dummy email addresses you would not see:
- A social media account like a Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter profile. It’s easy to generate a fake email. Much harder to generate social data for all of them. They would look like they are people that didn’t exist on the web.
- A profile picture. A lack of profile pictures in your lead or referral list is a quick visual indicator. You should see a good mix of people with profile pictures our solution is able to find.
4. Someone with ONLY direct referrals is suspicious if they have a lot of them.
Assume you see someone with 100 direct referrals, but ZERO indirect referrals. Meaning that NONE of their referrals also referred anyone else. That generally doesn’t happen. It’s another indicator that something is being rigged. “Ghosts” don’t refer other people.
5. Time span that the referrals are generated.
If you see someone with 100 referrals that all came within 1 hour… that’s a dead giveaway someone automated them. Real referrals take time for the person to post/email their friends and for their friends to read and react.
6. Regular intervals for signups.
See one referral coming in every minute? Great someone spaced out their automation. But did they randomize the times between sign-ups… like you’d see in real life?
It’s VERY challenging to pass all of those checks.
Would I give away one million dollars with a system like this in an automated way? No.
Would I give away prizes at the hundred to thousand dollar level? Yes. Everyday customers do.
You can assume that for anything higher than 10 referrals only 2-3% of entries will ever reach that count. It’s generally a small enough number you can check everyone personally and look at their referral list to see if it’s full of “Ghosts”.
For higher value prizes
For higher value prizes I would enable our advanced fraud protection. This ensures that we never award scores or automatically distribute our viral emails without email addresses being confirmed. It also enables automated scoring so that you more easily scan for the issues above and more.