Deter cheating in your online contests with these 6 simple measures
It’s flattering when people are invested in your contests, but accusations of fraudulent behavior from players can quickly turn into a headache to deal with. To this end, it’s always better to prevent cheating in the first place than it is to deal with accusations after the fact.
To help deter cheating and other fraudulent behavior, follow the measures below:
- Require registration on all voting contests. Anytime there is voting in a contest, you should require registration. Not only is contest registration a great way to build your email database, requiring that voters input their information is a deterrent to unfair voting practices. To further discourage players setting up multiple accounts, include a captcha and/or require registration confirmation (usually an email with a button to click to verify the validity of the email address used). For more information about optimizing your registration pages, read this article about which fields are important to include.
- Clearly state your fraud policy in the rules. Make it clear upfront what your policy is in regards to cheating. Explicitly state in the official rules for the contests that if voter fraud is suspected, the votes in question will be disqualified. However, you may always want to allow yourself a discretionary loophole – talk to your legal team about the best way to handle this aspect of the contest.
- Run registration reports regularly. Keep an eye out for any suspicious looking activity, especially when it comes to IP addresses. If there are different email addresses with the same IP address voting minutes or seconds apart, this indicates that the same person is logging out and back in with a different account to vote again. The same applies for registrations made minutes apart on the same IP address. You should also look for names that recur more frequently than they should, obviously fake names (i.e. Taylor Swift – sorry, but the real Taylor Swift probably isn’t voting in your contest), gibberish names, or suspicious email addresses. Finally, anytime you’re seeing email addresses like email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org right next to each other, it’s probably something shady.
- Limit the number of votes per day. Whether you allow voting once per day or 10 times per day is up to you. The important things is that you set a limit, as unlimited voting makes it very easy for players to set up bots to continually vote for them. And nobody wants bots in their contest.
- Hide the vote count and sorting options. If you are worried about contest players registering fake accounts or setting up bots to vote more than they should, consider hiding the vote counts during the voting portion of the contest. People will be less tempted to cheat if they can’t see who’s in the lead. If you hide the vote count, just be sure to hide any ballot sorting options (especially “Most Votes”) as well.
- Set up a rating system or judges’ panel. If all else fails (or if you would like super security for your contest), replace traditional voting with a rating system or judges’ panel. It is much harder to manipulate the results if all submissions are being ranked on a scale of 1-10 or the winner is being selected by an impartial body of judges. In order not to eliminate the fan vote portion entirely, you could also adopt a system where the judges select the top 10 entries to move into the voting round, or you choose the winners by calculating percentages – i.e. 20% of the result from a fan vote, 60% from your panel of in-house judges, and 20% from a panel of judges from your sponsor.
Above all, you want to do whatever’s best for you and whatever will make your audience (and legal team) happiest!