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Ten signs that a cruise contest on Facebook is not for real

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Contests are common on Facebook, yet it is easy to fall for one that is not legitimate. While many are the real deal, it’s important to be on the lookout for those that are not affiliated with the cruise line or travel company they claim to be. Most ask you to like and share a photo, and some will ask you to follow a link to continue the entry process. It is also typical for the contest rules to state that winners will be contacted through Facebook private messaging.

There are several reasons to be concerned about these contests. At a minimum, the page owners will obtain your name and, depending upon your privacy settings, your location and other personal information. The potential for abuse is serious should the owners of the page request additional information through private messaging or other means if you are deemed a winner. Even if you do not receive a private message, the page owner could gain access to your profile photo and list of friends, enabling them to create a phony profile page in your name.

So, how do you protect yourself? There are several aspects of some pages that are dead giveaways that the page may not be legitimate. Look for these before you click.

1. The page is not Facebook-verified: To check if a page is official, look for a checkmark, usually white on a blue circle, next to the name on the company page. A contest on an official page is generally OK, whereas a page that has not been verified should be avoided.

2. You are asked to share the contest on your timeline: This is prohibited by Facebook rules on contests, and should be an immediate tip-off that something is not right.

3. Grammatical errors: Read the text closely as errors in grammar are red flags. While you’re at it, look for spelling errors. A quick way to check is to copy the text into a Word document and perform a spelling and grammar test. This is not foolproof, yet it is a start.

4. Variation of official company name: This one is not easy to spot, so vigilance is a must. Some examples of real company names are Carnival Cruise Lines (not “Line”), Disney Cruise Line (not “Lines”), and Holland America Line (not “American”). When in doubt, conduct a search on Facebook for the cruise line and look for the checkmark that indicates that the page has been verified as authentic by Facebook. Authentic pages will show the real company name.

5. Extra characters in company name: Often, a non-legitimate page will put a period at the end of the company name in the page’s title. Authentic company pages do not do this, just as Facebook users do not, typically, put a period after their own names on their profile pages.

6. The page is a community page: Look for this on the page under the name of the company. Even if the community page links to the official cruise line page, a community page is not necessarily affiliated with the cruise line.

7. Type of business is not travel-related: One recent page shows the supposed cruise line as being part of the utility industry; another is listed as a consulting business.

8. The number of page likes seems low: Think about it—a company in an industry that attracts millions of customers should have a significant number of Facebook followers, or likes. For example, the official Carnival Cruise Lines' Facebook page has, of this writing, 2.6 million likes. One recently developed contest page has just 10 thousand.

9. Date of page creation or earliest post is recent: In most cases, the questionable page would have been created within the past month. Legitimate companies do not start new pages for their contests; they keep them on the official company page instead.

10. Short time frame for responding: Most contests that contain a sense of urgency are not legitimate. A contest that has a deadline mentioned in hours, not weeks, is likely one to avoid.

What do you do if you come across a page that you think may be unaffiliated with the cruise line? First, do not give them any information, not even a like or a share. Second, Facebook gives users a way to report the page: On the far right, just above the number of likes, is a triangular-shaped button that will open a drop-down menu on which “report this page” is one of the options. Finally, contact the cruise line to verify the legitimacy of the contest page. If the page is unaffiliated, they have the greatest power to ask Facebook to remove it.

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