evil-scammer

 

What will happen when you fall for Facebook ‘win a car’ scams?

Posted on April 15, 2016

 

Last week, so annoyed was I at the current spate of Facebook scams doing the rounds, I created a video explaining how the ‘win a car’ scams work. The video is a near three minutes of pure anger and, to date, has generated thousands of views and around 100 shares on Facebook.

Have a watch and judge for yourself – I may have gone a bit overboard.

Did you watch it? Angry, eh?

It makes me angry because this has been going on for several years. I even wrote about it back in 2014.

Now, I’ve spoken with a few journalists this week about a possible feature on these scams, but the overriding response was one of indifference. The reason being they didn’t feel there was much to warn people about – there’s no real harm in these scams as nobody ends up out of pocket, and nobody is conned out of money.

This led me to think about the endgame of these scammers. Just getting hundreds of thousands of gullible people to share their page on Facebook isn’t the goal of the scammer. That’s merely a means to an end. If the journalists in the UK don’t feel there’s much to warn against, and the people sharing these scams don’t see the harm, perhaps it’s time we looked at exactly what could happen when you fall for the scam – if not to you then to your friends.

Friends. That’s the key. That’s why the scammers keep doing this. It’s not just about the person who falls for the scam, it’s all of their friends too. If the average person on Facebook has 160 friends, many of them will be notified when they click ‘like’, comment and then share one of these scam posts. They in turn will click ‘like’, comment and share them, which notifies their friends, and so on and so forth.

That’s how these posts can quickly amass hundreds of thousands of likes and comments. They spread virally. Sure, not all of those people will end up financially out of pocket. That would be a ridiculously high hit-rate for the scammers. It would also make this sort of scam hugely profitable and even more common. No, only a small percentage of the unlucky ones will be out of pocket, but a small percentage of 100,000 people is still in the thousands.

Let’s take a look at the Audi R8 V10 scam

The scam started with the creation of a page on Facebook entitled ‘Audi R8 V10’. As with all of the Facebook scam pages, it wasn’t in any way connected to Audi. It was full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes and it featured pictures of R8s with bows on them, suggesting the cars were ready and waiting for some lucky winner.

Audi R8 Scam

The page then created a series of posts, all identical, all promising that by liking the page, liking the post, sharing the post and by commenting what colour car you want, you’ll be entered into a draw to win an R8. Each of these posts had a different end date on them because the dates they said they would ‘randomly select a winner’ came and went, and they needed a new post with a new date. This, of course, didn’t stop hundreds of thousands of people sharing them. They’re not looking at the fine print, they’re not checking whether or not the competition is real, they’re just sharing the scam so all of their friends also see it.

Audi Scam on Facebook

Despite many people commenting how the page was a scam, it didn’t deter the people blinded by the prospect of winning an R8 from continuing to share it. I personally went onto the page and pasted a link to my video as a reply to many of the comments. As quickly as I was doing this, the page admin was removing it. Eventually I was banned from the page.

Audi Scam

Not to worry, I had a backup Facebook account for this sort of thing. The scammers aren’t the only ones who can play dirty.

I also reported the account to Facebook, repeatedly, and encouraged others to do the same. To be honest this is perhaps the most disappointing thing about Facebook. Despite this page being reported by myself and countless others, despite it being an obvious scam, Facebook still did nothing for days. It allowed the scammers to operate the page without hindrance, and even gave me several warnings for commenting too many times in too short a period.

So – what’s the point? Why has someone done this at all?

Well, on Tuesday April 12th, the scammers running the Audi R8 V10 page played their endgame. They started posting comments on their own page, replying to others, saying they need to ‘complete their entry’ by visiting the official competition page v8-audi.com and registering.

Audi-Scam-Images01

It’s all getting a little bit real now, isn’t it?

The website itself actually looked really good. Better than many professional business websites I have seen. At least, that is, until you spot the spelling mistakes on the website. Note how they have misspelled ‘parteners’, and how they have neglected to use the plural of R8, which is R8s.

r8-audi.com scam website

These mistakes are not by accident. They are, again, to ensure anyone smart enough to spot them doesn’t bother to proceed any further. They only want people who fail to notice a scam when they see one.

The domain, of course, was not owned by Audi. Instead the owner had used Whois Privacy to keep their identity secret, as you can see here:

Registrant Name: Domain Admin
Registrant Organization: Whois Privacy Corp.
Registrant Street: Ocean Centre, Montagu Foreshore, East Bay Street
Registrant City: Nassau
Registrant State/Province: New Providence
Registrant Postal Code: 0000
Registrant Country: BS
Registrant Phone: +1.5163872248

The website, meanwhile, asked people to choose their offer, where they were directed to a number of other websites to ‘complete’ their entry, and add their details, including their email and phone number. There was even talk of ‘SMS notifications’.

Audi-Scam-Images02

What does that mean? You know those late night adverts you used to get a few years ago for really annoying ringtones, before we all had smartphones? You’d ‘pay’ for a ringtone, thinking you were buying one, only to find you were actually subscribing to a service that sent you content on a regular basis, and charged you each time. That’s the sort of thing going on here. Only when you physically unsubscribe from the service do you stop being charged.

Some of the sites you were sent to could be survey scams, where you’re asked to complete a survey for the chance to win a prize and, in doing so, have to enter your phone number. Don’t do that!

audi-scam-form02

Some of the sites you were taken off to were actually genuine websites, where no harm would come of you. You’d still be signing up for something, such as a service or subscription, but the sites themselves were above board. The scammers meanwhile (you know, the ones who own r8-audi.com) would be paid a commission for sending you there to sign up.

That’s why they need hundreds of thousands of people to like and share the page. It’s a numbers game. By falling for their scam you’re ensuring even more people fall for it too.

I should also add that many of these scams that take you off to websites, such as the r8-audi.com site, result in the websites downloading malware or viruses to your computer. These viruses can do very nasty things, such as steal stored passwords or provide backdoors into your PC for people.

Do you have a webcam on your PC or laptop? You might want to cover it. Seriously.

I’m pleased to report the Facebook Page has now been deleted, and the R8-audi.com website isn’t working anymore. This was all shut down on Tuesday afternoon this week, shortly after it was reported to Audi… by me.

It’s worth adding that not every ‘win a car’ competition is a scam. I also shared one this week that was genuine but, unlike the scams, it wasn’t for an Audi or a Range Rover. It was for a Vauxhall Astra. Not quite as glamourous, but certainly more believable. This competition was set up by Vauxhall, in conjunction with Liverpool Football Club. The Facebook Page for the competition links to a website owned by Liverpool FC, and it’s here where you enter the competition.

LFC Competition

It’s not too hard to spot the genuine ones from the scams if you use a little common sense. Even so, at time of writing this, the genuine competition to win an Astra had only received 13 comments and 20 shares in the three days it had been live. In the same time the fake Audi and Range Rover competitions receive hundreds of thousands of comments and shares. Say what you like about the scammers, they know how to make something go viral online.

That being said, don’t blindly share things on the Internet without first checking them out. This goes for competitions, pictures, news or anything. Don’t be so trusting of what you see and read. There are a lot of bad people out there and the internet is rife with lies, scams, viruses and fraudsters just waiting for you to fall for their cons.

Darren Jamieson

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 15 years’ experience in these fields.

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5 Comments »

  1. […] for the old “type a reply and see what happens” chestnut. Some are deeply dishonest, like the ‘win a car’ scams we’ve mentioned previously, yet thousands of social media users fall for […]

    Pingback by Do social media interactions = great content? — June 23, 2016 @ 12:10 pm

  2. […] People do not want to have a relationship with those they do not trust. This is why it is vital for a website to communicate trustworthiness to those using it. There are many online scams and unfulfilled promises circulating around the internet, and these erode people’s ability to trust website content. We’ve gone into some detail about scams here. […]

    Pingback by Should web developers study psychology? Engage Web — October 12, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

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