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Dear Ruth, Pearl, and Anne

Why do you insist on using multiple e-mail addresses to enter the same competition? You do know that even though you also call yourself, Alissa, Ellie, and Sabrina, that people will still know it’s you because you’re posting from the same computers? AKA IP no’s 68.35.34.170, 69.254.133.65, and 69.254.131.91.

Are you so desperate to win free books that you don’t mind cheating in order to get them?

Well, Diane, Jenna, and Sharon, if you’re going to cheat, you should learn how to do it better, because… well… a few authors have started to notice the trend.

I have it on good authority that you have the following e-mail addresses:

rojosho@hotmail.com
sauble@tennis.com
saubleb@gmail.com
elliotbencan@hotmail.com
bencanada1@yahoo.com

I mean come on, who needs that many e-mail addresses? Seriously?

If you’re that desperate for books, here’s some free advice from me: Buy. Them. Yourself.

OK?

45 Comments »

  • It never occurred to me, but I should have added that to the previous piece on contests, no? “Keep a list of cheaters’ IP numbers for future reference.”

    To quote Shiloh: cheaters suck.

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  • MB
    March 23
    2:16 pm

    You know that IP addresses don’t really count for shit, right? Dynamic IPS are assigned to more than one person throughout a day. Long gone are the days when an IP address pinged back to the same computer every time.

    ~MB

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  • Nope hate to give away secrets but yes you can still tell who owns those dynamic IPs and believe it not they don’t usually change that much. I can track down lot’s of people this way.

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  • Oh thank you, TP! I was getting all sad and discouraged about it. I mean, really, bad enough that asshats try to play the system, but it would really suck if there was no way to catch them.

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  • There is but it simply is what company owns that dynamic IP and which office to call and do we have an agreement with them. I can find entry point call the office and get the name and address of the person in minutes. But then I work for a bank.

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  • whey
    March 23
    3:46 pm

    I err on the side that IP and email addresses have the potential to be personal information, and this post is poking a stick at my comfort levels.

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  • and this post is poking a stick at my comfort levels.

    I daresay many of my posts poke at people’s comfort level.

    If you consistently try to cheat just to win some books, you’re asking for somebody to out you sooner or later, and please have you seen those e-mail addresses? I’m pretty certain they will have been deleted already for new ones.

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  • Cheaters outted! I love it! See, these are the people who make it impossible for the noncheaters like me to win the damn contests which is why I stopped entering many of them unless it’s a place I frequent (like Shiloh’s blog- her contests rock).

    BTW- that Anne… isn’t me for anyone wondering. I do NOT cheat. LOL Just making it clear. Hee!

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  • TP, oh, most wise. Teach me. I know that I have readers that use several email handles to enter contests, and I’ve let ’em. I see IP addresses in my stat counter. Other than writing them all down on a tally, how do I track them?

    Thanks,

    Darragha

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  • Karen: Big High Five and Kudos to you for exposing these people. I don’t enter a lot of contests and the ones I do are for books I’d really like to read. So the fact that there are people who cheat to win REALLY burns my ass!!

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  • Laura K
    March 23
    4:43 pm

    Here is another thing to take into consideration with ISPs. My best friend allows me to come to her office and use her fax machine to send out job apps. Now, she’s a busy woman, and I don’t drive. This often leaves me with a lot of time on my hands. I will use her computer to send in contest entries. Many times (because we like to read similiar things) we will send in entries from the same computer/ISP. Is THAT cheating? I don’t think so.

    I have noticed many authors now asking for name/address in their contests. I think that’s a better way to filter out the cheaters. My girlfriend and I live in Chicago, but over 6 miles apart. You’d easily tell who’s who by asking for an address.

    Just a thought…..

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  • If you’re that desperate for books, here’s some free advice from me: Buy. Them. Yourself.

    A writer on a board I frequent mentioned she got an email from someone asking for a free book, talking about how she’s sick and her husband has some kind of illness so they don’t have much money for books but she *really* wants to read this book, etc. etc.

    Another writer piped up and said, “Yeah, I got one of those and sent the book. It ended up on E-Bay.”

    These cheaters aren’t interested in the book. They want free stuff to resell.

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  • Peg, Statcounter lets you label each IP address. For example, one line of your stat report can read like this:

    IP Address 135.53.29.64 My Work Computer [Edit Label]

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  • A writer on a board I frequent mentioned she got an email from someone asking for a free book, talking about how she’s sick and her husband has some kind of illness so they don’t have much money for books but she *really* wants to read this book, etc. etc.

    I have several readers in my group that tell me they are disabled, shut-in, on a fixed income and enter contests to try and win the books they can’t afford. I am, of course, frustrated that my readers can’t afford to buy my books, but decided I’d chant (pray) for all my readers to have robust good health and “ebook” money in their pockets. I quit giving away copies of my books as prizes for the most part. And I will not give away copies of tradebacks. I’ve had reader requests for freebies from India, Singapore and Bulgaria. Oy vey.

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  • Helen
    March 23
    5:00 pm

    I started noticing duplicate names and addresses on my contests, so I pull all the contest entries into an Excel spreadsheet, run a duplicate macro and delete not only the duplicates, but all the names of the people who tried to cheat.

    I have zero tolerance for idiocy, especially which I stipulate that you can only enter once, please.

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  • I have several readers in my group that tell me they are disabled, shut-in, on a fixed income and enter contests to try and win the books they can’t afford.

    One suggestion I’ve heard is to offer to donate a copy of your book to a local library, so not only they can read it, but lots of other people can read it too.

    Most times you will never hear from them again. Honest.

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  • That is a brilliant idea. Several libraries carry my first book (my only in tradeback so far) and as soon as the second TB is out, I know it’ll get picked up again. Do libraries take ebooks? On CD? I could do that! Even to the libraries in Bulgaria or Puerto Rico (where I understand some of my readers live).

    I like to hear from readers…I just wish a few more of them were actually “readers” and not just “groupies.”

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  • I’ve heard a lot of authors receive the “invalid, ill, homebound” email requests. I’m not in print so I’m not of interest. An author (can’t recall who, and I apologize.) actually had an email for her entire collection because the sender’s “mother’s house burned down”. Um… Yeah, get right on that.

    I don’t believe a fraction of those emails are legit. Some people may use their real disadvantage to earn something, but most that I know of have too much pride to stoop that low. I may sound crass, and I apologize to those who feel otherwise.

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  • Lets be crass together then, Diana, ’cause I agree with you 100%

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  • Jackie L.
    March 23
    7:40 pm

    I have a boatload of ISPs because I have a lot of computers at home and at work that each have an ISP of their own (as far as my limited understanding goes.) I only have one Email addy and always use most of my real name. But I can tell you, “most” contests are won by “professional” contestants. Which is why your book might wind up on Ebay.

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  • I found out awhile back that my “contests” were being picked up by a “Sweeper” site that folks go to specifically to enter contests. I confronted the owners and told them that if they wanted to send people to my site to enter my contest, I expected them to buy books, too. They two individuals sent me twelve receipts for e-purchases over a year’s time.

    Professional contestants need to fess up and buy a book or two now and then, d*mn it. Grrrr.

    Darr

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  • See this is why when we do do a reader contest its on the condition that they buy a book and send the receipt. Less entries *when we do get them* but atleast we know they DID buy something.

    I’m with most of you in NOT giving away books, though if its a contest where they have to buy a book, I do usually give away a signed print book or tshirt… but again… less entries… but atleast they are quality *and we are running two on our site right now*

    Theres a LOT more contest whores out there though… you gotta beware of the loops and the live chats too… far far too many come out ONLY for the contests.

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  • Oh, but I have several thoughts on the matter, but expressing them could bring down the wrath of the contest sweepers. I don’t really mind all too much if someone Ebay’s a book after winning it, whether they read it or not. It eventually goes to someone who actually will.

    But I have a related question: What IS the percentage of contest entries for an author’s book that will never end up buying the book if they don’t win it?

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  • That is a very pertinent question, Walt. Perhaps some of the people who enter contest for new-to-them authors may not buy the book if they don’t win, but would end up buying other books by the author if they do win a free book and like it?

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  • laura
    March 23
    9:16 pm

    Boy, do I feel stupid and naive. As a reader, I’ve very seldom entered a contest because I can afford to buy the books I want. I only enter when it’s a signed copy from a favorite author, or an ARC.

    I’m very sorry that y’all have to deal with that crap. Prizewhores suck.

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  • Jackie L.
    March 23
    9:29 pm

    Walt as a reader–3 wins, one wallbanger, 2 autobuys. 3 (very) different authors. Cool thing, Shiloh’s got me doing ebooks and now Sherry Thomas has me reading historical (which apart from Amanda Quick and La Belle Georgette is not something I’m real partial to. So for me, great deal, 2 new autobuys. It can get a bit bleak in the winter–only JAK in January, JD Robb in Feb and then usually nothing til May. This year however, Lois McMaster Bujold has a new one out end of April. Lucky for me, Shiloh’s got a long backlist! The third author–wouldn’t touch another book of hers with tongs. (a la Linda Howard).

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  • Jackie L.
    March 23
    9:37 pm

    Man, I can never get the edit thingies to work! That may have sounded wrong, I love Linda Howard–I was just quoting her. Can’t recall the author of the book I hated, I just gave it away to the SHBS in my neighborhood as a donation.

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  • One suggestion I’ve heard is to offer to donate a copy of your book to a local library, so not only they can read it, but lots of other people can read it too.

    Most times you will never hear from them again. Honest.

    Oh, dang…. now that is a flipping excellent idea. I like that one.

    Yes, cheaters suck.

    There are other clues that somebody is cheating but I’m not posting them~naturally, I don’t want to make it easier for them to win or find ways around it.

    Karen, I love your public service announcements. 🙂

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  • DFM
    March 23
    10:03 pm

    Stella Price said,

    See this is why when we do do a reader contest its on the condition that they buy a book and send the receipt.

    This is actually illegal. A sweepstakes must be “no purchase required” otherwise it becomes a lottery, which private persons cannot run. We’ve done a couple of posts on the topic on our blog.

    What authors need to know about contests

    More about contests

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  • Hint’s from the pig…

    Always log IP and date & exact time of the issue. This is incredibly good information.

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  • DFM:
    While thats true… if they don’t wanna enter they don’t. Not that I’m all big that I get a lot of people entering contests anyway, but the ones that do support us as authors, and buy our books anyway… the contests are in a way thank you for supporting said book(s) and I’m actually not the only person that does this, infact, I got the idea about this a while back from entering two different author’s contests.

    any contest I have ever held that wasn’t a huge draw as it is,and if someone were to mention that, then they could enter…

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  • I agree with DRM to use caution about running a promotion that requires a purchase. Doesn’t matter if you are “not the only person that does this” or not, Stella. Or what your intentions are. You have the choice to investigate the laws and possible consequences for yourself.

    Consider these ‘professional’ or ‘serial’ entrants who try to abuse the good will of the promo sponsor by entering under false pretenses. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few were very familiar with the laws themselves (there are both federal and state laws that govern this topic) and decide to get nasty or ‘make a statement’ or whatever. Not saying it’s going to happen, just that it could. People can be very ugly and it doesn’t always take a good reason.

    It’s just a cautionary tale and, ultimately, up to you what to do with the info.

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  • Jessie
    March 24
    1:23 am

    I’m with a couple of the other ladies, I only enter a contest if its an ARC or something of that nature and I actually go out and buy the book anyway once its released

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  • KM
    March 24
    2:22 am

    DFM,

    A few suggestions:

    1. If you are going to make a legal post, provide citations to your source material. That’s law school 101 stuff. You don’t say something without backing it up.

    2. Don’t listen to “former lawyers” without researching the topic yourself.

    The Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act, also known as Chapter 30 of Title 39 of the United States Code, applies ONLY to sweepstakes or contests conducted via the US Mail. It has nothing to do with Internet based sweepstakes or contests. Zero, zip, nada. The purpose of the law was to stop much of those bothersome “junk mailings,” and to correct a lot of incorrect assumptions about the government being involved in or endorsing contests.

    Since I doubt you have access to the legal databases, here’s a layperson’s link: http://www.the-dma.org/guidelines/sweepstakesdosdonts.shtml

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  • Miki S
    March 24
    2:56 am

    Something else to keep in mind about IP addresses is you can watch for trends. There are still a lot of AOL dial-up users out there – and their IP addresses will regularly change. And members will overlap on those IP addresses. So it may be hard to make fair judgments about AOL email addresses.

    But if you offer regular contests, you’re going to see regulars enter the contests. And if Susie Q and Alice have both had the same overlapping IPs for weeks in a row, there’s an issue. They could be the same person posting from various vanity email addresses. Or they could be two people sharing a computer.

    But if you include a statement in your rules that overlapping IPs are deleted, you’d still be fair to delete them both IMHO. My personal opinion on it is, if they’re sharing a computer, chances are good they’ll share the book anyway!

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  • It’ clear to me that not offering books as a contest prizes and keeping my readers in my prayers is as good a plan as any!

    I was told once not to request purchase for entry into a contest. I was giving away an e-reader. I insisted on seeing a receipt for entry. I had a ton of people enter and quietly deleted the entries that used the same receipt a couple of times.

    I like to make entrants work for the prize. Answer questions, etc.

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  • You don’t say something without backing it up.

    I posted links to my source in the first post. The second one I made it clear that it was not written by me, and so I had only the source who preferred to remain anonymous. I made it very clear in both posts that it was NOT intended as legal advice, only as a heads up to authors who might not be aware of any of this, and an encouragement for them to research the topic themselves.

    The “former lawyer” in question is a partner and close friend of one of our clients. I know his name and can certainly verify that he’s a retired lawyer, now a private detective. I had no reason to doubt the information he provided, and I still don’t.

    Sorry, haven’t taken any “legal posts 101” class.

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  • Oh, and I might add:

    Online Sweepstakes Promotions: New Challenges for Marketers

    Most authors’ contests have prizes of values so low that they probably don’t need to be too concerned about this, but some offer prizes valued thousands of dollars, and all it takes is one “professional sweeper” to blow the whistle if the rules aren’t followed.

    I believe that authors aren’t nearly as informed about this as they should be, and our only intention was to encourage them to educate themselves. If you have a problem with that, KM, you’re welcome to comment on our blog entries concerning this.

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  • KM
    March 24
    6:32 pm

    Sorry, haven’t taken any “legal posts 101? class.

    Well, perhaps you should, since you clearly like to dole out legal “non advice” on your blog.

    And the fact remains that the information you provided was incorrect.

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  • I Am Not A Lawyer either, but suffice to say that I’d be amused and amazed if any author contest for prizes under $50 in value would ever be considered for scrutiny by any US legal entity. No matter what the author challenged her fans to do in return for a chance at winning a personalized book.

    In theory, I would imagine having the contestant do _anything_ besides fill out a form might constitute spending enough time to be considered a monetary expenditure, thus qualifying as a “purchase”. (“Have yourself photographed next to the book at the bookstore”)

    But luckily the price of the winnings involved here isn’t enough, I believe, to trigger any sort of interest by any governing authority.

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  • I think I am going to make up a spreadsheet with all my followers/subscribers/regular commenters e mail addresses and award them extra entries for any giveaway I host.And really start scrutinising the ones who enter giveaways but don’t follow/subscribe.
    I have been lucky so far that the people who enter my giveaways are known to me(followers/subscribers) but I also thought the point of a giveaway from the perspective of the p0ublisher was to let lots of people know about the book hence we say twitter/send e mails etc… Is it unethical to request that everyone who takes part needs to be a follower/subscriber?Is that not a way around this?Oh boy!!

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  • I think we all need to be careful here. I work in a public library, and many patrons use our public access computers to send email. They use their own email accounts, but that email is being sent out over our library (i.e., state) network, and all those emails will exhibit the same ISP. You could in fact be getting 50 different emails from patrons using the same 2 machines.

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  • Lil
    March 13
    3:08 pm

    I just got an entry from this person! I am so creeped out.

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  • Thanks so much for the heads-up. I came across your post through a Google search (for one of the emails in question) just now, 5 1/2 years after you wrote it. This problem of cheating still is out there, unfortunately.

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  • Disappointed to say I only just found this after awarding this person books at a variety of their aliases over the last three years of blogger. After being tipped off by you, I found that the emails they used (now all gmails) all went to the same mailing address. If you wanted to do an updated post I’d be happy to give you the updated email addresses.

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