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    Posted August 5, 2010 by
    Bellevue, Washington

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    ShareBuilder Encourages Fraud in Facebook Contest


    UPDATE:  The contest has officially ended.  The winners have been posted here.  The 3 people accused and found guilty of cheating and buying votes in the contest were awarded prizes.  Lesson?  Do not do business with a company that encourages cheating and fraud.


    To what lengths would one go to win $10,000?  Would you lie and cheat?  What if lying and cheating weren't discouraged by the contest holder? What if that contest holder was a respected national company?  Popular online brokerage, ShareBuilder, is holding an 'Invest, Snap, and Win' contest on their Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/ShareBuilder.)  The purpose of the contest is for contestants to upload a picture of themselves using the new ShareBuilder Mobile app in a unique location.  Then, the contestant will,"Ask, plead, beg, and cajole," their friends to vote for their photo each day until August 6th.  Grand prize for the contest is $10,000 dollars, first prize is $5,000 dollars, and second prizes are iPads.


    The contest started with a few notable front runners; each gaining a little upwards of 50 votes per day.  However, a few days after the beginning of the contest, two contestants with very few votes joined the leaders literally overnight.  Gradually, over the next few nights, Facebook contestants noticed trends in the surprise leaders' vote accumulation pattern.  The trends included a contestant going all day without a single vote, only to get exactly 220 votes in a few hours in the middle of the night, followed again by another day of zero votes.  Another interesting quirk was how the leaders did not mention their entry into the contest on their Facebook walls, a seemingly obvious strategy to get at least a few votes from friends.


    After thorough investigation, it was found that the contestants in the lead were hiring "microworkers" to vote for them.  Microworkers.com is a website based out of Dallas, TX where 'employers' can post small online based 'jobs' and pay a small wage for each completion of the job.  It was found that the contestants paying per vote were paying their 'employees' $0.15 per vote.  It is evident that the majority of the 'microworkers' voting for the cheating contestants are from India or are people who have created fraudulent accounts on Facebook (a violation of their terms of agreement).


    The issue was made public on ShareBuilder's wall, resulting in a decision by ShareBuilder to not disqualify the cheating contestants.  Numerous concerned contestants emailed ShareBuilder customer support demanding action be taken.  They were all sent the same email:


    Thanks for your email. We appreciate you reaching out to make us aware of the situation.  We are concerned that some participants in the Invest, Snap & Win contest are using this website [microworkers.com] to get votes for their submission(s).  While this isn’t within the spirit of the contest, it is, however, unfortunately not against the contest rules.

    Your passion for this contest is appreciated and we’re thankful to have fans like you.  Please continue to rally your friends to get votes for who you think deserves the grand prize.  The contest isn’t over until August 6.

    Leanne White
    Customer Service
    ShareBuilder from ING DIRECT



    ShareBuilder's non-action resulted in multiple (at least 3) other contestants to purchase their votes.  Currently, the top 3 contestants have all been caught paying for votes; they are obtaining their votes through fraudulent methods.  ShareBuilder, confronted numerous times, is doing nothing about this situation, and, in turn, is encouraging more fraudulent activity.  When pressed hard for public acknowledgement of the fraudulent activity happening in their contest, ShareBuilder posted this on their wall:


    "We’ve seen a lot of great pictures and are impressed by the great lengths that people have gone to make mobile trades. We want to let everyone know that we hear your concerns and are grateful to have such passionate fans. We’ve learned some lessons from this experience.A few participants have taken extreme measures to get votes.We’re not happy about their behavior…a contest that started out as fun went awry. We promise we’ll do our best to make sure that it never happens again." - ShareBuilder


    Repeated request for further comment from ShareBuilder has resulted in more silence on the issue.  It is unclear as to the reasoning behind ShareBuilder's allowance or encouragement of fraudulent activity such as this to occur in a public forum.  Public actions like these makes one wonder what ShareBuilder encourages behind closed doors.

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