Social media travel scam alert: 5 tips on how not to get snagged

2015-07-10 08:45
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Cape Town – Online Booking Agent Travelstart sent us a head’s up about a Facebook scam that has been doing the rounds – offering “500 first class flights for you and 5 friends to a dream destination of your choice anywhere in the world and $5 200 (about R64 740 at R12.45/$) spending money”.

This is a screengrab of the scam post supplied by TravelStart.

Virgin Atlantic representatives in South Africa have been notified of the fake Facebook page and it has since been removed.

Travelstart spokesperson Russel Jarvis said, “ The branding is identical to Virgin Atlantic’s, the “blank cheque” boarding pass aesthetic is bound to make the viewer excited  and more than 30 000 likes, close to 60 000 shares and more than 40 000 comments certainly does its bit to lend the post some social proof.

“It even has an official-looking IATA badge at the bottom,” said Jarvis.

You have to admit it looked pretty authentic.  According to Jarvis, who dissected the post, these are the typical ingredients of a fake Facebook post:

How to Spot a Fake Airline “Free Flights” Facebook Promo Scam

1. Check the page name

“Firstly, the page name, “Virgin.”. Notice that subtle full stop after the brand name? It wouldn’t be there if the original Virgin and Virgin Atlantic Facebook pages didn’t already exist.”

“What’s more is this fake page which already has 17K followers links to this equally dubious ‘Virgin Airline.’ (the full stop again) page with a Virgin Australia logo as its profile picture. The latter has only 156 likes.

 2. Check the About section of the company

“On further inspection we perhaps want to find out more about the company turning to the ‘About’ section to the left for more info.

“Facebook prompted you to ‘Ask for Virgin.’s website’.  Seemed strange that a big brand like Virgin wouldn’t have bothered to include this when setting up their company page doesn’t it.”

3. Where are the contact details?

“There was no contact details – no phone number, physical address, or email address.”

4. Is there engagement from Admin on the wall?

“In addition to the above, you could not write on this page’s wall and there was zero engagement with fans from the admin.”

5. Check the page’s start date and T&Cs

The page had no history and was started in 2015. The competition had no terms & conditions. For such a big prize, this should be mandatory. If it were authentic it would be mandatory, even for much smaller giveaways.

“The real Virgin Group Facebook pages are identifiable by the small ‘Verified’ blue tick Facebook gives to such multinational established brands using Facebook. These fake pages don’t have it.

“In this case it seems like a cheap and nasty way for Vacation Visions to drum up some social media support for its company page. One of the requirements of the fake promo is to ‘Like This Page Vacation Visions’,” said Jarvis.

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