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Congratulations! Scam banners saying you've won a prize.

If you are browsing through sites on the Internet, you may see a flashy banner come up every now and then, even on supposedly reputable sites, saying "Congratulations! You've won a prize!" The notion is that you were lucky enough to have looked at that page at the exact moment when the lucky prize was won, and all you have to do is to enter your details to claim the prize. It might be a 42 inch plasma TV, an Xbox, or some other snazzy item of consumer adoration. I've even seen banners claiming you've won a free immigration into the USA, though I would have thought that's a prize you might not want to accept?! Anyway, the banner says you've won a prize, so you might be tempted to click on it. But please don't! You have not really won a prize, and the whole thing is almost certainly a SCAM! What happens, I have heard, is that unsuspecting people are lured into typing their personal details in, and then the site that gets hold of the personal details sells them to numerous companies who can then bombard the potential customers with spam, offensive material, commercial offers some of which are a fraud, and offers to join various membership systems, some of which are not what they seem!

It makes sense at first glance, as the companies buying the lists are not just getting random lists of people and their personal data, but lists of people who have been fooled into falling for the "You've Won a Prize" scam in the first place! So, people who are more likely to be taken-in by various other offers, ruses, and salesmanship.

So let's state this in no uncertain terms, folks! Don't enter your personal details into sites that say you've won a prize when you haven't!

Now, companies, in case you're tempted by the prospect of buying a spam list of people who were fooled into thinking they'd won a prize... It may seem a gloriously gullible market to exploit, as you know the people have already been fooled once, so they might be fooled again into buying whatever it is you are selling? You'd have a ready made market of people, with their personal details, on a list, and you could sell them anything, couldn't you? Well let's just put those spinning dollar signs on pause! The fact is that a lot of the people on the list have no money! The lists typically include a great many poor people, and schoolchildren too. Their school has a computer with an Internet connection, but that's not going to help you to sell stuff. In addition to poor people, and children, such a spam list is likely to contain a great many jokers. People love to wind up silly customer data acquisition sites by putting in loads of fake personal details. If your company starts sending to them, you'll end up not merely with false leads but with your messages being put up on news groups and "ooh look at this scam" sites. As with fake opt-in lists, spam lists from "lure banner" data acquisition sites are also to be avoided.

Another popular but daft variant of the thing is a banner which states that YOU are the 1,000,000th person to have seen that banner and therefore you've won! It's a lie, obviously. The banner keeps on cropping up, and often will be manifested again by waiting or refreshing.

There are honest ways of Internet marketing, and if you'd like me to tell you about that you can read what an affiliate program can do for your company, but the honesty starts with what's on offer being truthful to start with.

It's not just a matter of honour and truth, but a matter of effectiveness too. Look at this allegory: There are three fishmongers shouting outside their shops to attract business. Which one is going to get the most customers in:

A. The one shouting "Fresh fish for sale!"

B. The one shouting "Come inside and collect your free 42inch plasma TV!"

C. The one shouting "Roll up and see the scariest monsters!"

Although "B" is probably going to get more people into the shop, "A" will sell more fish. The reason is the quality of the leads. People going into the honestly advertised fish shop are going there for fish, and fish is what they will get.

Also beware of Congratulations! You've won the Lottery! , messages saying they are from your bank , splat advertising, and 419 scam fraud

Don't get me wrong. Genuine WIN A PRIZE offers exist, but you can spot a key distinction between these and the scam offers: The genuine offers require you to do something. For example, if you buy a ticket, or as a bonus when you buy something, whereas the scam offers say you've won regardless of your initiation of actions. To sum this up: If you opt to enter, then you might win (or not), but if you passively receive a notification you've won, then it is almost certainly false.