How to Prevent Cheating In Your Facebook and Instagram Contests

Social media contests on platforms like Facebook and Instagram are effective marketing tools to increase brand visibility and engage audiences. However, cheaters can undermine the fairness of these contests, so it's important to establish strict rules, make entry challenging, blacklist fake email strings, use email validation, require social media sign-ins, use CAPTCHA, and choose winner selection methods that deter cheating. By following these practices, businesses can ensure the legitimacy of their contests and reap the benefits of interactive marketing.

By Will Blunt ・7 min read
Campaign & Contest Ideas
Social Media

Social media contests, particularly those on Facebook and Instagram, are excellent marketing tools. They work on a variety of different levels:

  • To grow your account visibility and reach.
  • To promote your brand name and increase awareness.
  • To engage your target audience.
  • To create a stronger bond between your brand and its customers.
Yes, contests can be all of these things to your business… but they only work if people feel like they have a genuine shot at winning.

If your contest doesn’t provide a level playing field, participants catch on and will run in the opposite direction.One thing that creates an uneven playing field for contest participants is when others cheat. There are always going to be those people who want to game the system and make sure that they get their hands on your prize. It happens a lot more often than you’d think, and in some cases, it’s almost like a digital criminal organization, with fake accounts all battling it out for the same prize, and very few genuine leads making it into your contest marketing funnel.These cheaters hurt your brand credibility and annoy your real fans. So, if you want to hold a Facebook or Instagram contest, here’s how you can make sure the cheaters don’t get their way.

#1. Establish Strict Rules and Guidelines for Entering the Contest

The rules of your contest are as important as the prize itself. You’ll need to set a few guidelines that clearly define what a user has to do to enter the contest and win.The actual process for entering the contest is up to you, but it’s always a good idea to make it somewhat of a challenge rather than going for the classic “like and share” mandate. That will only make the potential cheaters’ chances a lot higher.Here are some things to consider:

  • Have a contest timeline (a deadline for entering and the winner announcement).
  • Have an entry method that aligns with your goal for the contest. For instance, if you want to reward your existing fans, then you can ask them to enter a contest by sharing an experience with your brand through a comment or a tagged post on their page.
  • Have a clear description of how you will select a winner.
  • Have specific rules about who is eligible to enter and a detailed description of the prize(s), like these contest rules from fishing brand Yeti:
Contest Rules for Prevent Cheating In Your Facebook and Instagram Contests

Contest eligibility example.View and Create Your Own

  • Include any necessary disclaimers (ask your legal team if there are any).
  • Include a user agreement by which participants consent to you using their data (if applicable), like Albert’s Diamond Jewelers has done below for their Instagram photo contest:
User Agreement for Prevent Cheating In Your Facebook and Instagram Contests

Obtaining user data consent for a contest.

  • Mention the rules of disqualifying a user (for instance, if they use a fake account to enter the competition).

These rules should not be changed at any point in the contest, so take your time to iron out the kinks before launching!

#2. Make it Hard to Enter to Qualify Leads and Reduce Fake Entries

You might feel that a set of detailed guidelines and a high barrier to entry for participants will limit the number of entrants - defeating the promotional purpose of the contest. And, yes, making it harder to enter will reduce the number of participants. However, the people that do enter will be more qualified leads.

If it is too easy to enter your contest, and your prize is an attractive one, then you will play right into the hands of potential cheaters who are looking to game the system.

By making your contest more challenging to enter, you are keeping the cheaters and fake accounts away and increasing the chances that your real fans will win. You don’t have to go overboard - simply ask participants to contribute with something personal (like a story or their experience with your brand or a photo) as one of the sign-up requirements.Another way to qualify participants and ward off the cheaters is to use interactive quiz questions which only your ideal customers would know the answers to. The quiz contest from Holiday Parks New Zealand below is a great example of this in action:

Quiz Questions for Prevent Cheating In Your Facebook and Instagram Contests

Qualifying contest participants with quiz questions. View and Create Your Own Cheaters that manage 10+ social media accounts for the sole purpose of gaming contests won’t bother with your contest if it is too hard for them to enter quickly. Instead, they’ll look elsewhere for easier prey.

#3. Blacklist Common Fake Email Strings

Fake or disposable email accounts are easy to create and are a common way for cheaters to enter a contest multiple times. Some email clients, like Gmail, give users the opportunity to create alternate accounts or use aliases that are linked to one account. For example, you can simply add a “+” to an email address and the system will read it as a different address, but Google will forward it to your main inbox. It’s a nifty perk for people juggling several emails - but also an excellent tool for contest cheaters!If you want to avoid this, then it’s worthwhile adding common fake email strings to a blacklist and preventing people with these emails from entering your contest. Check out this resource for a list of over 400 domains with disposable and temporary email addresses.

List of 400 domains for Prevent Cheating In Your Facebook and Instagram Contests

A list of domains with disposable email addresses.Another tactic for overcoming cheaters using common email strings is by disallowing plus signs in email addresses, a setting that is available in the form set up for ShortStack contests:

Disallowing plus sign in email

The ShortStack form set up.

#4. Use Automated Email Validation and Confirmation

It’s a recommended practice to send a validation email to contest entrants with a confirmation link. For those that don’t respond to your confirmation message, add them to the discard list.If the email reaches a real person, great! Then they will confirm entry and there’s nothing further to worry about. If the email address is fake or the entrant is a low-quality match for your business, then they are unlikely to put in the effort to confirm their address..The automated email validation method is a way to make sure people don’t sign up with disposable email addresses. It means you collect real data from real people, which you can use for other marketing purposes later on.You can set up an automated double opt-in email with ShortStack, check out this video to see how:

#5. Use Social Media Sign in for Entries Rather Than Just Email

If you’re already using Facebook and Instagram to promote your contest, you can add an extra identification precaution by asking participants to log in to their social media accounts to participate. The social login approach automatically records their contact information using these social networks, saving them time and the hassle of entering it in manually.This way, cheaters and anonymous users will be discouraged from participating. You not only add extra steps to the process but also leverage the already rigorous screening process of creating a Facebook account.


When you picture a contest cheater, you’re probably thinking of a real person doing the deed, but it’s not always the case. The advice in this article protects you from real-life scammers, but if the cheater in question is a bit more tech-savvy, they can use bots to automatically enter contests on their behalf.A solution to avoid bot entries for your contest is to add a simple CAPTCHA to the entry form of your contest. For people, it’s a simple extra step and typically expected. For bots, it’s a dead end because there’s no way they can get through it.

#7. Choose a Way to Select the Winner That Makes Cheating Hard

It’s up to you how you want to choose a winner, but some methods are more cheater-friendly than others. For instance, the random approach encourages people to sign up multiple times to increase their chance of getting picked. That’s got potential spam written all over it. The only time we recommend using a random winner selection process is when you are using a contest software that handles this for you and weeds out cheaters by other means.Here are some other alternatives for selecting a winner:

  • Use a popular vote, where other users vote for their favorite contest entry, like this “Man Model” contest from clothes brand Chubbies:
choose a way to select the winner That Makes cheating Hard for Prevent Cheating In Your Facebook and Instagram Contests

Example of a contest winner being selected by popular vote. View and Create Your Own

  • Have an expert panel choose a winner, but clearly state the criteria entries will be judged on.
  • Offer smaller prizes and pick multiple winners, either weekly or monthly, depending on your contest campaign.
  • Select a winner based on engagement, where you use the Facebook and Instagram stats to award the participants who are most active on your account.

Back to You

There’s no doubt that your business can benefit a great deal from a social media contest. But they are not simple campaigns to set up, run, manage, and promote.If you are going to put in the required effort to run a contest, you want to make sure your participants are legitimate.Follow the best practices for weeding out cheaters outlined in this post and you will truly reap the rewards of this powerful interactive marketing technique.

Try a ShortStack template to create your first contest fast and easily.

Get Started Today. No credit card required. Risk-free.

About the author

By Will Blunt ・7 min read

Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.

Get marketing tips straight to your inbox

Thank you!
Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We’ll email you 1-3 times per week—and never share your info.