Over the past month or so, I’ve noticed a growing trend of the use of “Life Events” on Facebook to promote fake competitions. The latest one doing the rounds claims to offer you the chance to win an all-expenses paid Disney cruise… let’s look at this in a little more detail, and I’ll point out the tell tales signs that this is (and other “Life Event Competitions” on Facebook) are fake.
“Life Events” on Facebook are intended to be used to denote important milestones in a person’s life – for example, getting engaged or married, starting a new job, moving house, etc. So why is a competition posted as a “Life Event”? Well, scammers have realized that “Life Event” posts have more prominence and visibility in user’s timelines and news feeds than ordinary status update posts about what you had for your dinner last night, how many steps you clocked up on your FitBit yesterday, whether the UK should vote to remain in the EU or leave, or how much people hate Donald Trump, etc! A Life Event post helps maximize your audience reach.
Here’s a typical example “Life Event” post from earlier this month:
At time of writing, this post had been liked/loved over 3,100 times and shared a further 27,073 times.
To the untrained eye, this may look like a legitimate competition run by Disney themselves… but let’s dig a little deeper and look at the “Disney Cruises” Facebook page that this post originated from:
Here are some of the indications that this page isn’t what it seems:
Not a “Verified” page:
The first thing to note is that this is not a “Verified” Facebook page – meaning it’s not an officially verified/authorized Disney presence on Facebook. The actual real Disney Cruise Line Facebook page has a small blue “Verified” badge:
Page created very recently:
How long a Facebook page has been around is a good indication of its legitimacy – especially if it’s promoting offers or competitions. Simply scroll back through the page’s timeline until you reach the bottom. In the case of this page, the first post was made on 1st June 2016, and this was the “Life Event” competition post I highlighted above!
Limited number of posts predominantly peddling the same competition:
The “Disney Cruises” Facebook page has a total of 5 posts; three of which promote the scam competition, the other two are random Disney photos, lifted from elsewhere on the internet. If this were an official Disney page, you would expect a greater number of posts, a more diverse range of posts, and active interaction from the page owner with those commenting on posts. None of these things are present on the suspicious “Disney Cruises” page.
Empty “About” section:
The second indication that all is not as it seems is an empty “About” section:
If this page was genuinely a Disney Cruises page, it would contain some information and at the very least a link to the official website (https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/)
No contact details:
As there are no contact details (or website address) provided for the page – ask yourself, who’s behind the page? How would you contact them with questions?
Handful of “stock photos” & Profile pic lifted from another page:
Let’s take a look at the photos posted by the suspicious “Disney Cruises” page:
…a grand total of 3, plus a profile picture!
The profile picture has been lifted from the official Disney Cruise Line Facebook page – this is a common tactic used by scammers to make their pages look as convincing as possible by trying to mimic/emulate official pages.
The other 3 photos can be readily obtained via a quick Google Images search.
Links to non-official web sites:
This is the most recent post on the “Disney Cruises” page:
…which encourages viewers to click a link to a “disneycruiselines(.)com” website. On the face of it, disneycruiselines(.)com sounds like an official Disney Website, but should you follow the link, this is what disneycruiselines(.)com looks like:
Does that look like an official Disney site to you?!
So what are these type of scams trying to achieve? When I’ve alerted Facebook friends who’ve shared these “Life Event” posts that they are scams, the usual response is “Well, I’ve nothing to loose by entering/sharing it anyway!“
Wrong!! These type of scams are designed to do one of two things (or sometimes both!)..
Firstly, they can be designed to harvest your personal information (including your IP address, ISP, hostname, browser) and if you also have to “authorize” a website to access your Facebook profile in order to enter a competition, they may also be able to access your name, email address, friends list, previous posts, relationship status and more!
Secondly, they can be designed to generate a large amount of money for the scammers. Money which may in turn be used for illegal activities, including organized crime, arms, drug and people trafficking, or for financing terrorism. How do the scammers make this money? By serving ads on the websites they’re trying to entice you to click through to, and being paid a small commission each time an ad is shown to a viewer and a additional higher commission if the viewer “clicks” the ad.
Let’s assume that a scammer earns $0.10 for every ad shown to a visitor to their website, and a further $1.00 for every ad that’s subsequently “clicked”. Given that the example fake “Disney Cruises” page I’ve highlighted here in this blog currently has a total of well over 63,000 likes and shares across its 5 posts, this could potentially generate revenues in the region of around $6,300 – $63,000 for the scammers!
So, next time you see one of these “Life Event” competition posts appear on Facebook, ask yourself; is this a real, official and genuine competition run by a reputable company? If it sounds too good to be true, it’s quite probably a scam! If in doubt, don’t like/share the post thinking you have nothing to loose and instead report it to Facebook (via the small triangle to the upper-right of the post). By sharing the post with your friends – or even just liking it – you’re spreading the scam, putting your friends personal data at risk and and helping to finance the criminals!
It’s just not worth it!! …and there’s absolutely no chance of winning a cruise at the end of it!
NOTE: At time of writing the page highlighted in this blog post has been reported to Facebook, but so far remains active
UPDATE – June 16
Facebook have now removed all 3 competition-related posts from the scam “Disney Cruises” page highlighted in my blog – however, bizarrely, the two remaining posts (of stock photos) and the page itself hasn’t been taken down! I’m also seeing similar action being taken on other similar scam pages on Facebook. For instance, not long after I posted this original blog, another scam page entitled “Destinations Not To Be Missed” popped up in my newsfeed, again with “Life Event” posts offering the chance to win holidays. However, as per the “Disney Cruises” page, today, all the competition posts have been removed from the page, yet the page itself remains!
Come on Facebook – close these pages down fully already!!