London Olympics, Apple and Weibo lottery scams

Alia | August 8th, 2012 - 9:06 pm

Lotteries starting with “whoever follows me and retweets this post will have the chance to win XXX” are a common tactic used by marketing accounts on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, to lure in more followers. Many brands and advertisers on Weibo use lotteries as a way to gain more exposure and to engage fans. Since Sina Weibo requires real-name registration using official ID numbers and mobile phone numbers, it’s relatively easy to verify lottery winners…that is to say, if it’s a real lottery, not a fraud.

The on-going London Olympics, however, gives rise to probably the largest scale of lottery scams on Sina Weibo. Numerous legitimately-sounding Weibo accounts started to spread prize-for-everyone lotteries betting on China Olympic team’s gold medal counts. So many similar lottery scams came up in a matter of days that Sina has to start to flag suspicious ones to alarm netizens. Despite the alerts, netizens on Sina Weibo are still reposting these lotteries like crazy, clearly showing a thirst of Apple products.

Huateng Telecommunications (@华腾通讯): “Due to a large amount of overstock, when the London Olympics ends, if China still ranks top in gold medal counts, whoever reposts this Weibo post and follows us will get an iPhone4s. We won’t eat our words. Kudos to China Olympic team!” The little red ribbon over the post was by Sina to alarm netizens of potential untrustworthy information: “This is not an activity initiated by an official account. Ricks may be involved and please take caution when participate.” Despite the warning, the post has been reposted over 254K times and attracted more than 65K comments, as of the time of this blog entry.

Another one by Real-time London Olympics with almost the exact wording: “When the London Olympics ends, if China still ranks  top in gold medal counts, whoever reposts this Weibo post and follows us will get an iPad3. This is an official Weibo account and we won’t eat our words.” Again, Sina flagged this post but it still got over 53K reposts and some 12k comments.

Besides those that have been flagged by Sina as fishy, there are tons of more out there featuring the same lottery with more or less the exact wording – if China tops London Olympics gold medal counts, whoever follows and reposts gets something Apple. One common thing about these scams is that EVERYONE gets to win.

Most of these lotteries may be scams to cheat for more followers, but one truth revealed is the popularity of, or rather, the thirst for Apple products. Apples products are by far the most sought-after prizes used in Weibo lotteries, legitimate or illegitimate ones alike.



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