Fighting engagement bait on WhatsApp

Image: Namibia Fact Check / WhatsApp

Shoprite is not celebrating its 21st birthday nor is it giving its customers prizes – it’s just engagement bait

A familiar zombie claim which has been debunked several times over the years has yet again started circulating in WhatsApp groups since January 2024.

It is important to understand why these types of phishing scams keep resurfacing and recirculating. 

These scams are engagement bait scams that request engagement (like, share, forward, etc.) of some sort from anyone who views them on social media. 

The latest one to come to Namibia Fact Check’s attention is a post promoting “Shoprite’s 21st Birthday Celebration Gift Prizes” (image below).

What is Engagement Bait

WhatsApp owner, Meta, defines engagement bait as: 

“Posts that explicitly request engagement (such as votes, shares, comments, tags, likes or other reactions) for purposes other than a specific call to action (such as seeking help to find missing people or property, raising money or sharing a petition)”

The aim is to artificially boost engagement in order to achieve greater reach. 

Meta has identified five (5) types of engagement bait that users of its platforms should be on the lookout for and avoid, namely: 

  • React baiting
  • Comment baiting
  • Share baiting
  • Tag baiting
  • Vote baiting

Share and spread 

The scam Shoprite birthday prize post is an example of a share baiting scam by attempting to fool people into sharing the post for a non-existent prize.  

The link in the post redirects to a page that requires the completion of a basic questionnaire in order to supposedly win up to R10 000. Once the answers are saved, the scam victim is required to choose a box which has the gift inside. Of course, there is no gift inside.

What is inside, though, are instructions to share the post with 15 friends or into five (5) WhatsApp groups before the prize can be claimed (image below).

What happened to the reward? 

There is no real reward for completing the steps requested or for sharing the post. 

All that the person who engages with the post has achieved or enabled is the further spread of the engagement bait scam.  

Social media users are strongly encouraged to ignore engagement bait posts promising prizes.