SCAM ALERT: Some Facebook Sponsored Ads
Are These Sponsoreds Ads on Facebook A Scam Or Not?
I was excited by these ads but my skeptical side kicked-in. We will investigate these ads together and I will walk you through the exact process I followed to decide for myself if these ads are scams or not.
Always Be Cautious
In fact whenever you will invest your time or money in anybody or on any thing, whether it's online or not, you should really spend a little time checking out who is behind the product or service.
It is good to be skeptical. That doesn't mean automatically dismiss everything as a lie or as not trustworthy. It means do a little research and check it out for yourself.
This Ad Got My Attention
Have you noticed the influx of ads on Facebook over the last few days advertising products on massive discounts or at launch-day promotions for P110? (USD $2). It could be a coffee machine, new luggage bags, or anything actually, but these ads do have some similarities.
I saw this ad and it really got my attention:
Looks like a great deal! I was genuinely interested but my natural skepticism forced me to take it slowly. I read the comments first. People were saying things like: "wow, is this really only P110?" and replies such as "Yes, I bought mine and it took only five days to arrive! I am so happy!"
That is exactly the reassurance I was looking for! Somebody else has bought it and was happy. I checked out her profile and it looked real enough, a real person with a history and photos dating back a few years.
Let's pick it up there and let us go back and look at the ad together.
There is our first red flag! The company posting this ad is called AER. I gather that's a big brand so it should be a trusted source the link to their website is "tinyurl", it is not directly to their website. You would expect it to be something like aer.com. However, tinyurl website addresses are commonly used to help companies make their website addresses appear shorter. Some social platforms - such as Twitter - automatically change website addresses to shorter urls just like this. Facebook doesn't, but since it's common practise let's remain open-minded and explore further.
Now, you should never click on links that you don't 100% trust so I am going to do it for you instead :)
Ok, so I have clicked the linked and reached a website with a grey background. A white box was being drawn while the page loaded and finally the page appeared. It was a puzzle game with a selection of bags. The page said I had three guesses to click on the correct suitcase in order to have the chance to buy one at a discount. What on Earth? I thought this was a serious discount offer, not a gambling game! That's really weird and that's the second red flag. But let's play anyway and see what happens. i really want that bag and it's so cheap!
Predictably, my third and final guess in the game opened the opportunity to buy this suitcase and an order form opened. The site told me to enter personal details and... you guessed it: payment details.
I am thinking: "It's a promotional discount and then you need me to play a game with a low chance of winning that I won on my last guess? How lucky I am! What a coincidence! No! No way. I am investigating further."
I did not immediately fill out the payment details or contact details but did have a look around the page I was on.
So this is AER's website? Looks nice! Good job!
But hang on a second, I just spotted the third red flag: the website address.
We are still not as a website with 'aer' in the website address. The website address is dpcstreet.com. W-w-wha-who-what?? Who is that? I suppose it could be a distributer in the Philippines or some other third party offering a promotion on AER bags. Let's find out by taking a look around the site.
Do you see those links in the top-right of the site? Let's have a go at clicking on them. It would be nice to read their story or check out their collections.
The trouble is they are not really links or buttons or anything at all. When the mouse passes over them the mouse cursor does not change to the pointing finger/hand icon. Nothing happens when you try to click on them! So what's going on? It's possible that the site has a bug, bad programming, or it's possible that it's fake.
This goes down as another red flag. Ok, now I really want to know what's going on.
(As I type this I realise I could check the source code but nah, let's go for the long and more interesting route!).
There is another way to see who is behind this page and that's to go to the front page of the website. Do you see the website address, the dpcstreet.com/..... This is the exact address of the page we are looking at. To get to the home page for the site all we need to do is to delete everything including and following the first forward slash. So let's do that now...
Let's click into the address, delete all the stuff shown in blue, make sure there is no forward slash and nothing at all after dpcstreet.com and then press enter.
What happened to AER? And dpcstreet? So now it looks like The Broke Backpacker is sponsoring a promo offer for AER bags. But then why the broken links on the previous page?
I am still skeptical. Clicking around this website it does work. The pages I clicked on worked as expected and the site looked really good, it's a nice website. But why dpcstreet, I don't get it at all. I want to find out more about them so let's scroll down to the bottom and see if we can find an about us page. Aha! Here we go:
Great! A link to their facebook page! Of course, I will click on it!
It takes me to their facebook page. I am expecting to see the AER promotion on their main social page. That's what you would expect to see, right?
There is no mention of any promotion relating to AER, but I have found their ACTUAL website address listed on their facebook profile.
Hmm. No dpcstreet? It says here their actual website is thebrokebackpacker.com, as you would expect! We're on the trail now, let's follow it and take a look at their website.
Note the website address is now what we would expect. This website is identical to the website on dpcstreet.com. I moved around the site, the links work, it looks good. It is pixel-perfect the same as the homepage I showed earlier.
How many red flags do we need? It's like a red flag celebration day!
So what is going on?
It is already conclusive that the facebook sponsored ads are most likely a scam, but I am curious and I want to follow the thread a little further.
Many yers ago somebody made a fantastic tool called WayBackMachine, also known as archive.org. This tool saves a copy of most websites on the internet every few days and leaves the copies in a publicly-accessible archive. This is quite handy. It means we can search back and see how our two identical websites looked in the past. You can use this tool whenever it looks like a major media outlet has taken down articles and you are thinking "conspiracy!" This tool lets you check the original content. In our case this tool will give us an indication of whose website went live first and with what content because we can see the actual saved copy of the site. So let's take a look at the company I am accusing of being scammers, the dpcstreet.com site.
Oh dear. Their website has never been saved before by archive.org. That's really not a good sign.
What about the actual company website, thebrokebackpacker.com?
Et voila! There it is!
Do you see all those black bars above the calendar? That represents all the times this site has been scanned by waybackmachine going back ten years! I did look at the exact copies saved on those dates, it matches the real website. It's good.
It is becoming clear now what is going on.
Somebody has made an exact duplicate of thebrokebackpacker's website and is hosting it on an unrelated named website: "dpcstreet.com". Then they added pages deep into that website to promote their scams on fake pages, purporting to represent bigcompanies like AER, and they are using those pages to steal your personal details and your money.
So It's A Scam?
Yes. It is very clear that the sponsored ad from Facebook is a scam, even though it appears to be posted by a company calling themselves AER.
Let's Tell Facebook!
Unfortunately Facebook doesn't really have a tool to report ads, only the images attached to them and you have to choose a category. I did report the image attached to the ad and chose something along the lines of "scam, misleading, dishonest". Facebook did reply to me a day later.
They said that there is nothing wrong with the ad at all and it does not go against their site policies and guidelines.
It's funny because I have had genuine content blocked by Facebook and was told I could only post on a page if I provided a digital copy of my passport and if my passport name 100% matched my profile name. So that implies that they HAVE already verified that the AER fake company is real and genuine, or it could be that they don't care as long as the ad is paid for? That's just speculation. I find it a bit confusing.
Mystery Solved: It Is A Scam!
That should be the end of my story. This paragraph should just be a warning to everybody to take care when a deal seems too good to be true and to stay away from that one ad.
More Sponsored Ad Scams...
But it's not the end of the story because the next day I saw another ad:
Ok, they are for the same product, and both posted by one single Facebook user, but then I saw another ad too!
There is a pattern emerging! These are different types of products that should have totally different prices but they are all being offered on discount for P110!
I think it's only fair to give these ads the same treatment as the AER ad, don't you? Let's start with the coffee machine. Who is posting the ad and where does the link go?
Oh, look at that, another tinyurl link! Let's follow it! (But remember kids, don't follow links you can't trust).
It appears to be the Philips website, but we have some more red flags and alarm bells, very similar to the first scam. Compare the design of this page to the earlier scam AER product page. There is a coloured bar across the top, the logo in the top left, links in the top right, images in the middle and then a colourful footer. It's really the same template as the AER copy earlier.
Let's start with those links in the top right? They don't work. This is the same as the earlier scam. No mousover cursor and nothing happens when I click on the links.
And what's this website address? Does it say Philips? No, it's gittix. Gittix who? Let's go to the homepage and see what this website is really about. Remember we need to remove everything including and fllowing the first forward slash, and then press enter...
And what do we get? Wait for it.... can you guess? Is it Philips homepage? Is it a company called Gittix selling home electronics?
....a holiday and travel experiences website! Truly truly!
And the website is good, it looks just like a real website and works. But who are Truly and why are they selling Philips coffee machines for P110?
I did a search in Google to see if I could find out and yes, I found a company called Truly Experiences... but that website we just sawn the gittix one, is NOT their website. It is a very good copy of their website. I went to their actual website to check.
Here is the original:
It's already clear, this is another scam, the pattern is the same, it's another Facebook Sponsored Ad, but to make this "truly" conclusive, let's do the same as before. Let's use archive.org to verify which of these two websites is the real one. The fake gittix site or the real company Truly Experiences:
As you can see, trulyexperiences.com has a lot of previously recorded copies of their website in the WayBackMacnine.
And the fake copy has none:
So that is Truly conclusive.
I did the same for the other coffee machine advertisement and went ahead and followed the link on that ad. This time I saw another copy of the Philips site but there is one difference. Do you see that the website address this time is different?
Let us follow the same process. Let's see what the homepage of this website address looks like. Same as before, remove the first forward slash and everything after it.
And this is what we get. Another beautiful copy of a genuine website! At least time the topic actually matches the product this time! It's a little more convincing!
I did of course find the ACTUAL company, and yes, the scammers had copied their website beautifully.
What does WayBackMachine have to say about all this? I am expecting that there are many saved copies of craftcoffeespot.com and none of sil2007.org. Let's see!
I checked craftcoffeespot and yes, it's saved and dates back a long time and matches the exact copy of their website as we would expect. Please do this check for yourself to be sure.
How about sil2007.org?
What??? sil2007.org DOES exist as a website? Really? It has a 17 year history in WayBackMachine! Now I am intrigued! What did it look like WayBackThen?
If you click on a year and then click on the little blue circles that appear on the calendar, you can pick an actual time of day and see how that site looked like on that give day and time:
This is what we get on June 25th 2022. The stuff inside the big red rectangular box is how the website looked at that time.
Yes, it really is just that. A blank white page with a bunch of broken images and blue writing from what is that, Japanese, Chinese, Korean? No styles. No layout. Nothing. I confess, I don't know. But that was not what I was expecting!
Let's try another date. How about 28th June 2012?
An image and some text and nothing else. No styles. No layout. That is also not really what I was expecting to see but it does show us that this website is nothing to do with coffee or Philips or P110 discounts haha!
How Else Can We Spot Scams?
There are some other little oddities that I came across with these ads that help identify these kinds of things as scams, and I'd like to share them with you before wrapping up.
Let's take a look at the comments.
It is really a good idea to look at comments against a product before launching in and buying it. Here is a screenshot of some of the comments I saw:
It's actually reassuring, isn't it? But all of the ads had comments following the same formula and each ad aluded to text in the promotion itself. "Yes, I received mine after exactly 5 days!" "I really love this company for doing this promotion for exactly P110 or your money back guarantee!" Alright, I'm exaggerating. But whilst it's not conclusive, is that how you would write a review on a product? Would you really take care to write promotional material? Probably not. You'd probably write, "it was great thanks!" or "I love it!" or "where is my bag, it's late delivery!" All the comments match the ad and there is not one negative comment or negative review. Who in the world has zero negative reviews? It's not conclusive, but it's worth looking out for.
We can also look at the profiles of the people posting comments and the companies posting the ads. Here is what I found.
Haha! I am pretending to be Sherlock Holmes when it's right there in front of my face. Well, that does speak for itself! Along with the ONLY 2 likes!
Each of those profiles had a few things in common. They mostly had woeful website addresses and email addresses in their profile, but they also had a fairly short history, just 2-3 months and their pages had only images. Then they just suddenly stopped. It doesn't give an impression of real life companies with real life people behind them.
The Philips ad was even funnier. It led to a company claiming to be from Philippines and then had an image of Philips Portgual logo! haha, what on Earth is going on there? Red flag alert!
What Happens To All The Hacked Facebook Profiles?
And as for the people leaving comments, I spent some time looking at their profiles and I was trying to work it out.
Some of the profiles do have a long history and some don't, but one thing they all seem to have in common is that the people who appear to be posting these comments had not posted anything personally for quite a long time, usually a year or more.
I cannot be sure, but it could be that these are facebook accounts that have been "hacked" and then abandoned by their owners when they couldn't get access to retrieve them back. Most of us know at least one person this has happened to - I will probably be next after writing this article! I think those accounts might be these people commenting, it's possible thay re being used by scammers to promote their scams.
Why aren't Facebook interested?
No idea. Your guess is as good as mine. But it is clear that an ad that is advertised as a sponsored ad is not guaranteed to be safe.
What Can We Do About Scam Ads?
The wrong solution, in my opinion, is to be afraid and untrusting of everything as a default. Do not trust or not-trust as a matter of habit! Please do not be afraid of a good deal or of people in real life who are genuinely trying to do good things. No. Be Skeptical! But not afraid :)
Whenever you see something that catches your interest but looks a bit dodgy, just spend a few minutes investigating or try to search about it on search engines or ask other people for their opinions too. Take your time and don't rush into things.
We live in a world where trust and faith is really important, but people and things that can be trusted usually have a track record that we can see, or we can take our time to release our trust slowly. In this case, these ads can be investigated and you can get to a place where it's really obviously a scam or where it's at least likely to be true, and then you're going with your gut feeling. Most scams are provable if you look for a short time.
Spread The Word
And about this, please spread the word. Feel free to share this article if you find it useful.
There are so many ads like this and Facebook aren't going to stop displaying them. Just let people know about it so they don't get scammed.
Thanks for reading and have a nice day!
Learn More About Internet and Telephone Scammers
If you would like to know more about scammers and how to deal with them, please check out these two Youtube channels.
This guy is brilliant. He is hyper talented and very funny. Apparently his grandma had dementia and was scammed out of a lot of money and he then used his very high calibre of talents to track down scammers and teach people about their methods. His youtube channel is really for entertainment but you can learn a lot about scams and the kinds of horrible people who are running them and the kinds of lies they tell, and how to deal with them.
This guys Youtube channel is a little different. They are more facual and less about entertainment. He exposes scammers and combats them directly and tries to protect victims as much as he can.
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