In June 2021, we received multiple inquiries from Snopes readers about a possible online scam offering a free Hermès bag for internet users who filled out a short questionnaire. The survey stated:
Hermès 184th Anniversary Celebration!
Through the questionnaire, you will have the opportunity to get a Hermès bag.
The page in question included the French luxury goods company's official logo, as well as a banner that read: "Free gift with Hermes [sic]. Good luck." Underneath a photograph of a Hermès bag was a multiple-choice survey, with the first question being "Do you know Hermès bag?" and the response options "Yes" and "Not."
The "Free Hermès bag" giveaway was no more than a scam. Archived links to the scam can safely be viewed here, here and here. (All links contained in this article are either archived webpages or screenshots, and are therefore safe to click on).
The first and most definitive piece of evidence was the fact that the supposed giveaway was not hosted on any websites associated with Hermès itself. Rather, it was available on various bogus websites. So far, we have identified four such websites, all of them hosted in China: maoxingpei.top; fevan.com.cn; jhjnxd.cn; byjydq.com.cn.
Similarly, as of June 3, Hermès itself had made no mention of any such giveaway on its Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Weibo profiles.
Furthermore, the "questionnaire" bore several key characteristics of a scam, and had the aim of tricking users into sharing it far and wide through WhatsApp. Here's how it worked.
Then, the website displayed a screen containing the message, "Congratulations, your answers have been successfully saved. You have a chance to win gifts..." The penultimate step was to play a short game where the user clicks on various "gift box" icons until they "win" a bag:
And the final step was for the user to share the scam with either five WhatsApp groups or 20 WhatsApp contacts within eight minutes:
The presence of two other characteristics add further proof to the illegitimate nature of the fake Hermès promotion. First, the websites involved used phony comments from bogus "Facebook users" to add a veneer of credibility to the scam, a ploy Snopes has observed in previous scams.
We were unable to connect the names and profile photos of any of the "users" endorsing the Hermès scam with any actual Facebook users. Furthermore, we found the same profile pictures on a separate, similarly spammy website, but with entirely different names, as shown below:
Finally, though not definitive proof by itself, the text of the promotion featured several typos and grammatical errors that made it thoroughly implausible it was produced by Hermès itself. For example, "Hermès" was spelled without the accent on the second "e" in one instance, and the first question in the survey was the grammatically ambiguous: "Do you know Hermès bag?"
Although headquartered in Paris, Hermès is a huge global brand in luxury goods with fluent English-speaking employees, and it routinely produces the kind of slick marketing copy, in English, that one would expect from such a company. "Do you know Hermès bag? — Yes/Not" was most certainly not in keeping with that track record.