A WARNING has been issued over a fake Center Parcs Facebook page that has been shared by more than 17,000 people.
The fraudulent page has been called out for setting up a bogus competition for Brits to win a free stay at Center Parc’s Longleat resort in Warminster.
But the competition wasn’t real and was designed to trick Facebook users into liking and sharing the page.
The fake Facebook, called Center Parcs Longleat Resort, promised "a free Center Parcs holiday for 4 at Longleat and £500 to spend".
It advised people to comment and share the post to enter, with 17,700 people going on to share the post, while 14,700 people liked it.
It appears the scam competition was set up yesterday but has since been taken down.
How to stay safe online
HERE are some top tips to keep yourself safe online – including on social media:
Protect your password
- Don't use your Facebook password anywhere else online, and never share it with other people.
- Your password should be hard to guess, so don't include your name or common words.
- Learn more about creating a strong password on the Facebook website.
Never share your login information
- Scammers may create fake websites that look like Facebook and ask you to login with your email and password.
- Always check the website's URL before you enter your login information. When in doubt, type www.facebook.com into your browser to get to Facebook.
- Don't forward emails from Facebook to other people, since they may have sensitive information about your account.
- Learn more about avoiding phishing on Facebook's website.
Log out of Facebook when you use a computer you share with other people
- If you forget, you can log out remotely.
Don't accept friend requests from people you don't know
- Scammers may create fake accounts to friend people.
- Becoming friends with scammers might allow them to spam your timeline, tag you in posts and send you malicious messages.
Watch out for malicious software
- Malicious software can cause damage to a computer, server or computer network.
- Learn the signs of an infected computer or device and how to remove malicious software.
- Keep your web browser up to date and remove suspicious applications or browser add-ons.
Never click suspicious links, even if they appear to come from a friend or a company you know
- This includes links on Facebook (example: on posts) or in emails.
- Keep in mind that Facebook will never ask you for your password in an email.
- If you see a suspicious link on Facebook, report it.
Fake Facebook pages are sometimes set up to trick people into handing over their personal details, which can then be used by scammers to commit a fraud against you or gain access to your bank accounts.
Another type of Facebook con commonly reported is called “like-farming” which is where someone sets up a fake page to gain “likes” – making the page more popular than it actually is.
Scammers then change the name of the group and either start spamming the people who've liked it with other fake adverts, or they'll sell the page on.
Some adverts also contain links to unsecured websites which may infect your computer with malware.
It's unclear exactly if users were asked to send any details across, or if anyone lost any money through the scam.
Wiltshire Trading Standards (WTS) shared the fraudulent page on their official Facebook to raise awareness of the scam.
WTS wrote: "Spoiler alert – You aren't going to win a holiday but you may lose out to scammers.
"This page was set up three hours ago and already has almost 18k shares.
"The page was only set up today and does not belong to the official @centerparcsuk."
How to protect yourself from scams
BY keeping these tips in mind, you can avoid getting caught up in a scam:
- Firstly, remember that if something seems too good to be true, it normally is.
- Check brands are "verified" on Facebook and Twitter pages – this means the company will have a blue tick on its profile.
- Look for grammatical and spelling errors; fraudsters are notoriously bad at writing proper English. If you receive a message from a “friend” informing you of a freebie, consider whether it’s written in your friend’s normal style.
- If you’re invited to click on a URL, hover over the link to see the address it will take you to – does it look genuine?
- To be on the really safe side, don’t click on unsolicited links in messages, even if they appear to come from a trusted contact.
- Be careful when opening email attachments too. Fraudsters are increasingly attaching files, usually PDFs or spreadsheets, which contain dangerous malware.
- If you receive a suspicious message then report it to the company, block the sender and delete it.
- If you think you've fallen for a scam, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool.
The WTS said there were several tell-tale signs that showed the competition was fake.
This included the page being set up the previous day, plus it not having a "blue tick" to show it's a verified company.
WTS continued: "Our advice is to spend a few minutes checking out pages before liking and sharing posts such as these.
"When was the page set up? How many posts are on the original page?
"Does the page have the blue tick to confirm the profile is the official page of the business it's claiming to be?"
A spokesperson for Center Parcs 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 been made aware of an unauthorised page on Facebook offering the chance to win a Center Parcs break and can confirm this is not genuine. We have reported this to Facebook."
Katherine Hart, lead officer at Trading Standards, said: "I am concerned about the prevalence of adverts imploring users to like and share products and businesses.
"While many of the adverts are marketing a business or product, some are potentially dangerous.
"Users should check if the page hosting the advert is the official corporate page of the company in question."
We've contacted Facebook for comment and we'll update this article if we hear back.
The Sun recently reported on how Moonpig customer accounts were "hacked" as crooks stole hundreds of pounds worth of booze and gifts.
Virgin Media warned customers in March to change their passwords after a breach.
And in May, nine million EasyJet customers had their details stolen.
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