IN SHORT: South African Facebook groups dedicated to “koop en verkoop”, or buy and sell, have been flooded with generous offers, promising giveaways in return for commenting on the post. But these are just that – too good to be true.
We took a closer look.
Similarity to other scams
The biggest warning signs that these giveaways were suspect was how similar they were to other scams.
Africa Check recently debunked other posts supposedly offering free Toyota Hiluxes, which also claimed that to win you needed only to comment. But these fake “giveaways” were posted by pages managed by people outside of South Africa, despite targeting mostly South Africans, and were unconnected to the Toyota company.
Many similar Facebook giveaways are also scams, from offers of free cash to tech gear and mobile data. As we’ve said in our guide to spotting Facebook scams: “If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.”
Like these older scams, the ones targeting South African buy-and-sell groups show no signs of being connected to legitimate businesses. But there are other red flags that the posts are scams, including the accounts sharing them.
Suspicious accounts using stolen profile pictures
Accounts associated with legitimate businesses will often be verified as official by Facebook. If not, they usually link to an official website, which should have a link back to the Facebook account. It’s always a good idea to inspect Facebook accounts to see if they are trustworthy – usually the more information given, the better.
The accounts posting these giveaways typically display little to no personal information, and what information they do reveal appears to be false.
But “Enhle Mbally” has no apparent connection to any of these brands, and even more suspicious, the account doesn’t look as though it’s run by a real person. There is no information availabe in the “about” section of the Facebook account, and it has only one profile picture, which is also used as a cover photo.
Although the account uses the feminine pronoun “her” in status updates, the profile picture for it is of a bearded man with glasses.
A reverse image search revealed that this photo has been commonly used by scammers under various false names. In our searches we found the picture used by at least two LinkedIn profiles in two different countries, in an online dating profile on Facebook, an account on a Catholic social media site, and an Instagram account that has reused several other pictures of the same man.
Reverse image search to spot fakes
Forums dedicated to spotting fake accounts and scams have also shared the photo with warnings that it is frequently used by scammers, as are other photos of the same person. One forum has identified the man as an Italian Instagram user, who has posted about a previous account of his being hacked.
Doing a reverse image search can be a quick and easy way to check whether a social media profile is real. And needless to say, profiles using stolen profile photos and fake names probably aren’t giving away real prizes.
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