Which? has found social media ads for fake Facebook competitions collecting thousands of interactions from users.
The fake ‘Alton Towers Breaks’ and ‘Center Parcs Resorts’ pages claim to offer the chance to win getaways worth more than £2,000.
The Alton Towers page was set up on 13 July and has already amassed 74,000 likes. The Center Parcs Resorts page was set up in 2020 and has 33,000 likes.
Posts from the pages both follow the same format, telling users that all they need to do is ‘like’, ‘comment’ and ‘sign up’ in order to be entered into the giveaway. These sophisticated scams use images and branding taken from official websites to create the illusion of authenticity.
Find out more about these scams and how to protect yourself.
‘Alton Towers Breaks’ scam competition
‘Center Parcs Resorts’ scam competition
Users who click the sign-up option at the top of the page are taken to a broken website with no competition details.
It’s unclear if the pages ask for more personal details after users interact with the posts. At present, we’re unaware of anyone who has handed money over to the pages.
This fake competition ‘sign up’ could be tracking users who click through to its website, priming them to receive spam ads from the people running the pages.
Users who have interacted with these pages can be caught in a vicious cycle where ‘likes’ inflate the popularity of the page, adding to the illusion of authenticity and further promoting it so it’s seen by more people.
We’ve reported the scam pages to Facebook and they have since been closed down. In response, a Facebook spokesperson told us that “Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not allowed on our platforms, and we have removed the Pages brought to our attention. Our team of over 35,000 safety and security experts disable billions of fake accounts every year and remove millions of fraudulent posts.
We have donated £3 million to Citizens Advice to deliver a UK Scam Action Programme to raise awareness of online scams and help victims.” .
Our research found that social media and search engine users are put off reporting scams by time-consuming forms and perceived lack of action against fraudsters. Which? believes that online platforms should be legally required to identify, remove and prevent fake and fraudulent digital content from appearing on their platforms.
When we told Center Parcs about the page, it said: ‘Like a lot of well-known brands, our brand name has been used without permission by unauthorised Facebook pages on a number of occasions.
‘We have reported this post to Facebook and we would like to remind people not to enter their details or share the page. If ever in doubt about a post, please visit our official Facebook page to check if it is genuine.’
Alton Towers said, ‘We continually monitor social channels for imitation accounts created by unauthorised persons. While we take immediate steps to have these removed, we ask that social media users remain vigilant and check the authenticity of any accounts offering information and competitions relating to Alton Towers Resort.
‘Any legitimate competitions and giveaways being run by Alton Towers Resort and approved third-parties will always be listed on our website altontowers.com.’
Social media scams
Follow these steps to help protect yourself from social media scams:
- Is the deal ‘too good to be true’? If the deal or competition is too good to be true, it probably is. A quick Google search will tell you if the legitimate company is promoting the giveaway.
- Check the URL If you’ve followed a link, does the URL look suspicious? If it does, leave the site.
- Check your social timeline Is there a high number of people posting or sharing the same thing? They may have been scammed.
- Check the branding Scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated but there might be telltale signs, such as inconsistencies in the branding, that could give them away.
- Send a message If someone you know has posted or shared something suspicious, ask them. Send them a message to make sure, as it may have been intentional.
- Contact the company directly Reach out to the company on social media, via email or over the phone to check whether the competition or giveaway is real.
If you think you’ve come across a scam online or on social media, read our guide on what to do if you think you’ve spotted a scam.
How to report a scam
If you think you’ve found a fake or fraudulent page or an account on Facebook, you should report it to Facebook.
As well as reporting the advert to the platform that’s hosting it, you can report scams to Action Fraud, or by calling 101 if you live in Scotland.
Read our guide to find out how to report a scam.
If you’ve recently encountered a scam, you can help our scams research and our work to prevent scams by using the Which? scam sharer tool.
Which? scam alerts
You can get regular updates on the current scams doing the rounds by signing up to the Which? scam alert service.
These are free weekly emails full of practical advice to help you stay one step ahead of the scammers.