Cheaters Always Win (& Get Caught)

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.

Christian MethatYou do not win ? It’s a bit because of him.

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: xxx@univmtl.net, xxx@ispqc.com, xxx@commserv.ca, xxx@concordia.campus.com, xxx@eduqc.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

PROPORTION 60%

Draw a Mac

► Entries related to network Méthot: 28 776 entries on 35,879 participants

PROPORTION 80%

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

[six months],” candidly confessed to our reporter incognito Méthot Christian’s father, Jean Methot.

“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.

Nominees.

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?

READ: Cheaters Always Win (& Get Caught) — Part II

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.

2016-12-26T21:56:24+00:00 October 3rd, 2015|Marketing|22 Comments

About the Author:

Carolyn

Carolyn Wilman (aka @ContestQueen) is a Digital Marketing Strategist and Sweepstakes Specialist. Carolyn teaches others how to Find, Organize, Enter and Win giveaways along with working with companies to create, and viral market, winning promotions maximizing ROI and loyal customers.

22 Comments

  1. Carolyn
    Carolyn October 3, 2015 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    I love my contest buddies – Katharine sent me this thread from Frugal Shopper – I even did a whistle-blower segment for CTV, but the details were fuzzy – I wanted to see who won as I wondered how far back Christian was cheating …:

    Keep in mind though, that the 3 food inspectors are;
    Julie Trembley
    Luc Bouchard
    Katia Montminy

    Of the names on the winners list, Katia is the only one there, the others share the same last name as an inspector.
    – Chantale Neron – Peribonka QC
    – Jacinthe Bouchard – Ste-Monique QC
    – Rosaline Gauthier – Hebertville QC
    – Anne-Marie Desbiens – Ste Monique QC
    – Diane Montminy – Peribonka, QC
    – Steve Harvey – St Honore QC
    – Luc Montminy – Quebec QC
    – Sebastien Bergeron – Peribonka QC
    – Louise Bouchard – Peribonka QC
    – Katia Montminy – Peribonka QC
    – Eric Tremblay – Peribonka QC
    – Jolanta Rafuse – Hamilton ON

  2. NotaWinner October 3, 2015 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Maybe it explains all the winners in this contest from a small Quebec town, I never had a chance.

    http://www.leclerc.ca/en/contests/festival-quebec-2015/gagnants/default.idigit

  3. Jeannette October 3, 2015 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    Thank you for writing and posting about cheaters! These people, in my opinion are the scum of the earth and they clearly lack a conscience. I guess in their minds they feel what they are doing is fine and not hurting anyone but what about all of the honest contesters out there that put the time in and don’t cheat. I sure hope that companies will read this and take steps to ensure that they stop or minimize the cheating. I actually read about someone winning a big prize recently and the company was informed by many people that it was a cheater, yet they still awarded the prize. I hope that companies realize that if they knowingly award a cheater, their customers, me included lose respect for them as well. I don’t enter much anymore as I simply don’t have the time that I used to but now, the few that I do enter are probably a waste of time with people like that man out there….

  4. Di Coke October 4, 2015 at 2:21 am - Reply

    Interesting reading – I’m surprised fellow contestors didn’t flag up that the same names were winning such big prizes time and time again (or did they….?!). Automated entries are a big problem in the UK – I prefer to see a competition where effort is required rather than a prize draw, there are paid services that submit entries for people and it really spoils the hobby.

    Seems to me that despite being ‘caught’, Christian feels he has done nothing wrong and won’t have to give back any of those prizes though! I think this is a BIG lesson to companies about having better T&Cs and putting more effort into checking entries! I’ll probably blog about it on SuperLucky too – thanks for the heads up.

  5. ALICE SPENCE October 4, 2015 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this info. To me, it sounds more like theft. The same goes for voting contests, when people buy votes. I think that you gave good points to the companies, like one per household & I also think VOTING contests should be phased out due to the cheaters. The cheaters spoil things for all of us honest entrants.

  6. Allan October 5, 2015 at 9:34 am - Reply

    All the captcha systems have been compromised, there is software out there that decodes them automatically for posting spam on forums. I agree with the other poster about voting contests, some people won a lot of prizes on voting contests, and still companies hold them in spite of them being unfair.

  7. Anna October 5, 2015 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    The Anthon Berg contest right now seems to be affected by the same problem. The contest shows the top 5 people with the most entries and they are all related or are friends! What are the chances of that happening by random chance?? I think there are probably more than 5 of them, as the contest only shows the top 5.

    As to frequency of entry, I do like daily contests because I like being in a habit of interacting with the brand daily, and I like to dream about the prize daily too. I hope daily entries stay, BUT the contest sponsor could limit the total daily entries to maximum of days the contest runs for. For example a monthly contest to have a limit of 92 entries total. That way anyone with an exorbitant amount of daily entries is obviously cheating.

  8. Anna October 5, 2015 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    I meant a 3 month contest, not monthly.

  9. Kim October 12, 2015 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    I would far rather enter a vote contest than a referral link contest. You see the same names winning over and over again and a lot of them are attached to “contest blog site” owners or their family. These people post their personal referral links on their blog and thousands enter through them. they don’t warn you that you are giving them an extra entry by clicking their link.
    To be honest at least with “MOST” vote comps you can see who is cheating. You can watch the numbers of the vote buys jump hundreds of votes in minutes. With referral links and script generated entries the users of the contest have no idea if it is happening for sure or not.
    I have always said there was as much cheating in random draw as in vote comps, I just didn’t realize that it was happening on this large a scope.
    You can also bet that if it is happening in QC it is probably happening in the rest of Canada and the USA.

  10. Allan October 18, 2015 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Questions were raised years ago about this group in Frugal Shopper Canada in 2007, so how many contests have they really won over the years? A million dollars worth, millions maybe? Hard to say as in my experience a large percentage of contests do not reveal the winners, or obscure by first name only.
    http://www.frugalshopper.ca/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?f=107&t=77364&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hilit=REJEANNE

  11. ChristineB October 25, 2015 at 9:15 am - Reply

    We should send this article to all contest administrators who allow Quebec to enter, so that they can check for cheating.

  12. Leslee N December 1, 2015 at 9:37 am - Reply

    ANOTHER CLAN MEMBER ??

    There was a long discussion in a different forum that took place in 2007 concerning a contest open to all of Canada and the USA. The discussion was about how nearly all of the Canadian winners were from Quebec, and that those same winners won multiple times.

    They posted a summary of number of daily prizes won in four different but related contests:

    Patrick D
    Febreeze: 3, Mr. Clean: 6, Cascade: 3, Swiffer: 1

    Christian M
    Febreeze: 2, Mr. Clean: 5, Cascade: 2, Swiffer: 3

    Rejeanne H
    Febreeze: 0, Mr. Clean: 2, Cascade: 3, Swiffer: 3

    PRISCILLA H
    Febreeze: 3, Mr. Clean: 2, Cascade: 1, Swiffer: 2

    AND from a post in 2006 (!!!) Another thread in the same forum posted the following:

    Visaperks.ca $1,000 Online Shopping Sweepstakes
    Contest Period: July 31, 2006 to Sept 30, 2006
    Winners of visaperks.ca $1,000 Online Shopping Sweepstakes:
    name removed – Regina, SK
    name removed – Toronto, ON
    C. Methot – Repentigny, PQ
    R. Houle – Saint-Bruno, PQ
    P. Houde – Montreal, PQ

    And a quick google search does turn up the name Priscilla Houde, Montreal QC alongside the names of several other Clan members who won prizes in the same contests. So she appears to be a member of The Clan, or had been in the past.

    I imagine this group is both bigger and operating much longer than what was unearthed by The Journal.

    • Carolyn
      Carolyn December 1, 2015 at 9:41 am - Reply

      I agree! Plus I believe it’s not just this one group. I think there are far more cheaters than we know of, and not just in Canada.

  13. Leslee N December 1, 2015 at 10:01 am - Reply

    Here is Clan Methot membership list for reference:

    Christian Méthot, Repentigny QC ………….. (Leader of the pack)
    Marie-Eve Theriault, Repentigny QC ………..(Christian’s partner/wife/girlfriend)
    Jean Méthot, Saint-Bruno QC ………………. (Christian’s father)
    Réjeanne Houle, Saint-Bruno QC ………….. (Christian’s mother)
    Isabelle Méthot-Dubé, St-Constant QC …….(Christian’s sister)
    Annie St-Amant, St-Constant QC ………….. (sister’s friend)
    France Dufour, Saint-Eustache …………….. (mother of Marie-Eve, Christian’s mother-in-law)
    David-Alexandre Gravel …………………….. (Marie-Eve’s friend)
    Lukas St-Germain, Thetford Mines QC …….(Marie-Eve’s friend)
    Annick Roy, Sainte-Julie QC ………………….(Marie-Eve’s friend)
    Pierre Bergeron, Repentigny QC ……………. (Marie-Eve’s friend)
    Patrick Dubé, St-Constant QC ……………… (Sister Isabelle’s former spouse)
    Priscilla Houde, Montreal QC………………….(Active 2007, 2008… perhaps no longer active?)

    • Carolyn
      Carolyn December 1, 2015 at 10:03 am - Reply

      Thanks for creating the list. It can be used to send to sponsors and marketing agencies.

  14. Helena January 15, 2016 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    I entered a contest where the three people with the highest number of votes get their names into a draw for a trip worth $25,000. I worked really hard for my 167 votes from family, friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, one entrant got 2,000 votes within five days, including 900 votes within about 10 hours. It’s one of those things that makes me go “hmm”.

    Questionable voting practices not only devalue a contest and are unfair to the people who are playing by the rules, but from my perspective they can also have a negative effect on the brand if the sponsor doesn’t disqualify participants with unusually high vote spikes.

  15. alyce bayne January 26, 2016 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    This is really disheartening and discouraging. I commented to my husband recently that I have not won anything in a long time and it was not unusual for me to win something at least every month. I am very diligent about only entering the amount of times allowed and staying within the guide lines listed for the sweeps.

  16. steve August 2, 2016 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    It may not be illegal but I would start reporting to the sponsors.

    It’s against their terms and these guys are destroying the sweepstakes campaigns with hundreds of bogus entries.

    I would assume that any sponsor who knows the person or person(s) responsible for making their campaign fail and giving their company a bad name in regards to sweepstakes, will go after that person to recoup the costs of the damages, time and campaign losses.

    It may not happen for them all, but it only takes 1!!!

    • Carolyn
      Carolyn August 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm - Reply

      Agreed. Many people have been reporting what they find, or share this blog post with them. The more that are aware the less people can cheat.

  17. Marilyn Garrison April 23, 2017 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    I live in the USA, CA. But this is truly disheartening. I do not enter referrals as I just assume that it multiply’s entries beyond reason. I do not have time for that. But the cheating you have written of by this Christian guy and his family, that is despicable………I know, from many years of sweeping that there are some people who are mega winners. I’ve always felt they cheat in some way as no one could possibly have enough hours in the day to enter and win what they do; often big trips cars and prizes. I know they mega entered when it was mostly mail in and hired people to fil out their entries. But with computers, I just think they created a different identity for each computer and some, also had others working for them to enter that way. No matter, it is cheating…….My wins are way down, and I do not win much on-line. I enter daily, or whatever the rules state. Do not find too many local thing’s since on-line is so popular. I enter what I can and am blessed for all the wonderful trips I have won for me and my family over the past 22 yrs. And many other items. I always try to follow the rules, and do not cheat, so it saddens me that there are these kind of people out there……

  18. Roger Simmons April 23, 2017 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    I’m going to play Devil’s advocate here. I see everyone complaining about how unfair it is, and how it saddens to see these people out there, but yet it’s being done on a continual basis by some of the same people who are complaining about it. Not necessarily those who have commented on here, but generally speaking I’ve heard it all over the years. I’ll just name a few examples that come to mind.

    ICoke points. Collecting icoke points that are disposed of (this reward system is now defunct), is improper as the rewards were meant to be redeemed by those who purchased them. When the icoke points are disposed of in Blue recycle bins, they actually by law become property of the City in whose collection bin it was placed in.

    Stouffers rewards points another example of throwaways that were collected by those collecting them from throwaway and redeeming them.

    Facebook contests I’ve seen many many people create secondary accounts to enter Facebook contests while using the justification that they dont want to bother their families with their contesting. While that may or may not be the truth, Facebook rules do not allow the same person to have multiple accounts. We could essentially call this cheating. It doesn’t give a sponsor any accurate reflection as to their personal life and needs and why they should win or be chosen to try a new product.

    Facebook accounts to enter Mother/Father/Brother/Sister/In laws, etc. I’ve also seen people justify entering relatives by saying they wanted them to win this contest or that contest and they could use this item. While again, in the spirit of contesting, we all want to win, entering a relative by logging onto their account and entering again defeats gains others advantages. There are many who do this.

    Contest proceeds of sale. While Mr. Methot I read sells his winnings, this by far is not an uncommon occurrence. There are many people who enter contests to trade off, barter, or sell the winnings as the contest they enter has no franchise, store or opportunity for that person who entered to win it, to use it. There are many franchises for example that are not found in the Eastern provinces but by and far there is a large proportion of persons entering contests who have none of these store brands, franchises or merchants in their area.

    Contests are a prime opportunity for brands, stores, and merchants to gain new audiences and customers. They do this by using contests to lure and attract new customers. The problem is that many people do this for a living and spend more hours than a full time job entering daily as an addiction to winning and not as a potential customer. While the truth may hurt some, that is what it is plain and simple. An addiction to winning. While I enjoy entering contests myself, I don’t judge anyone as to how they win, or what they win, or how they contest, or why they contest. Winning a contest is by and far a time consuming effort nowadays and I try to be picky as to what I enter.I’m not saying im an angel either. My wife shops a lot on Amazon and for me all the author Amazon contests are by and far the largest proportion of what I enter but again, if I was the author of the contest, I would find me unethical. I doubt I would ever read or buy the authors book. I just want the Amazon card.

    Interesting reading Carolyn, I always enjoy reading what you publish even if I dont comment on all of them.

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