I recently blogged about the sacred and shadow sides of the hobby and there are good and bad: bloggers, sponsors and entrants. When there is money involved it sometimes brings out the worst in people. However, this level of cheating is beyond anything I wrote about.
Sadly, I wasn’t surprised. Over the past 10 years I have had sponsors calling to ask if I knew specific people as they were suspected of cheating with thousands of entries in a giveaway. I never recognized the names (as there are thousands of contestors). At any rate, the cheaters were disqualified.
This article appeared in the Journal de Montreal today. As you can well imagine, the online backlash is HUGE.
NOTE: I used Google to translate this article as it was too long and I didn’t have enough time to get it properly translated. I did a bit of editing so sentences flowed, somewhat, properly.
A programmer has found the way to make enter more often.
A clever programmer set up a scheme which allowed him to enter thousands of competitions in Quebec and with his accomplices they pocketed more than $160,000 in prizes.
Cars, travel, furniture, snowmobiling, computers, tablets, telephones, tires, show tickets, a tackle box, to the simple little bottle of nail polish. No prize was too big or too small for this group that was unmasked after a Journal investigation.
If you do not win too often in online contests, it may be because of Christian Méthot and relatives.
This crack IT developer created an automated system that allows it to multiply indefinitely entries. It is then possible to greatly increase the odds of winning. Several large companies in Quebec that organize giveaways were victims of the scheme.
An astute system to win repeat.
Christian Méthot would target a contest. He programmed a computer to run an automated online registration system. His system will literally flood the competition with thousands of entries. To achieve this without being detected, it generates fake email addresses using multiple domain names that the computer programmer reserved by grafting all imaginable names. For example: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org The thousands of entries emanate, most often from the same IP address (tied to one computer), but they consistently refer to 10 friends and family members of the network. Although they hid behind false emails, they must provided their real names and phone numbers in order to claim their winnings.
The distorted probabilities.
The Journal has been analyzed records of recent runs of registration, where their system was used to distort the odds and successfully increase the chances of someone in the group winning.
Draw a Fiat car
► Inscriptions related Méthot network: 123,644 entries on 204,585 participants
Draw a Mac
► Entries related to network Méthot: 28 776 entries on 35,879 participants
Six prizes of a sudden.
According to our research, conducted by analyzing records of registrations, the network has a dozen people, mostly relatives and friends of the web programmer and his partner Marie-Eve Theriault.
With these nominees and its automated system, Mr. Méthot is sometimes able to fill more than half of the online registrations of the same competition. No wonder then, that he and his partners have regularly won more than one prize in the same contest.
For example, they have won four of five VIP stays ($400 each) in the center of Le Baluchon écovillégiature, in Mauricie. They also won six of 10 stays in a hotel ($500 each) and Country Inns in March. In February of last year, they had also won three of the four tablets ($500 each) in price discounts by Brunet pharmacies.
It’s been jealous!
Among the members of the lucky clan, there is the mother of the programmer, Réjeanne Houle. The lady of Saint-Bruno has collected at least 21 prizes since 2008, more than $38,000, including a trip for two to the Dominican Republic worth $5000 (Air Transat), a cedar pool worth $5,000 (National Home Show), a coffee machine worth $3,500 (Ricardo) and $15,000 in furniture (Quality Furniture Canada).
“There are some years, I had three trips
“First one to England. After that we went to Jamaica. In mid-December, off to Cuba all expenses paid. We returned for the holidays. At parties, I swear it made the world jealous! “
A unique technique.
“There is no one who has the technique” Mr. Méthot also proudly stated about his son, when the Journal of the representative met last week.
Our reporter was then posing as a potential buyer of a snowmobile with a value of $14,000 won by Annie St-Amant, one of the nominees for Christian Méthot. The snowmobile is currently being offered for $8,500 on Kijiji.
By his own admission, is was also Jean Methot who sold a $12,500 Fiat 500 won by Isabelle in February Méthot-Dubé, the sister of Christian Méthot, in a contest sponsored by the Journal.
In this edition, the automated system set up by the programmer has generated more than 120,000 entries using phony email addresses. This represented 60% of participants in the contest while the regulations, as is often the case, provided for a limit of one entry per person per day.
It was worse in other competitions, including the one where Mr. Méthot group recorded more than 80% of the ballots to win a computer. That is to say that they had eight out of 10 chance to grab the lead.
According to collected confidences, Christian Méthot has a sharing agreement with his friends: he lets enjoy their earned trips, but he usually collects the products achieved, then flowing on the internet.
If our research has so far uncovered dozens of competitions rigged by the nominees network, the list is probably not exhaustive.
New on Kijiji.
The inventory of brand new products sold by Christian Méthot on Kijiji website is indeed impressive.
Earlier this week, it posted three cookware sets ($300 to $320 each), an audio system ($200), alloy wheels (to negotiate), a smart watch ($350), a composite hockey stick ($200), an “electronic coach” ($100) and utensils with BBQ ($20).
The next day he added a table saw “still in its big box” ($600), a miter saw ($700) and a mixer ($250).
Lucky, but legal.
Reluctant to comment on the matter when reached by phone this week, Christian Méthot nevertheless spoke of a “gray area”.
He also suggested not to be the one to do so: “You will find many people who are like me.”
“It is true that he was especially lucky. But this is completely legal, “‘insisted his father, who called the case’ not so much interest.”
Because of non-compliance with regulations related to the number of participation, The Journal canceled the registration of the group to its current competition.
Read the article to see all the pictures and additional details I couldn’t easily blog about (that don’t need translating).
I have always recommended to my clients that they have one or more simple entry controls in place to prevent fraud:
- one entry per person,
- one entry per household,
- require a full mailing address for each entrant,
- login each day to enter,
- a CAPTCHA on each entry,
- track the IP address for each entrant,
- require unique PIN codes to garner an entry,
- state in the rules they can only win once per calendar year per sponsor,
- ask for a copy of photo ID along with the release form.
Nothing is 100% fail-proof, but taking certain steps will deter cheating.
As for the legalities, rules are a legal and binding contract between the sponsor and the entrant. I urge all sponsors to have proper rules written by competition lawyers and take legal action against cheaters. (I have heard of cease and desist letters being issued!) If cheaters know there are consequences beyond simply being disqualified, it may make them think twice.
If you see someone (anyone) cheating, warn the sponsor/agency (by sending them my blog posts on this topic) and recommend they verify all the entries for fraud.
What do you think sponsors should do to stop/eliminate cheating?
P.S. Does anyone remember the names of the cheaters that won in the Maple Leaf Foods grocery game contest that was hacked in 2007? They were all from Quebec. The end result was that Maple Leaf Foods changed the rules of all future promotions stating no one could win another prize from them within a calendar year.