The Growing Menace of Fake Race Organiser Profiles on Social Media

The Growing Menace of Fake Race Organiser Profiles on Social Media

Social media platforms like Facebook are essential tools for event organisers, especially in the world of athletics and upcoming races. However, with this necessity comes a new form of threat – the rise of fake profiles pretending to be race organisers or even close friends. This deceptive practice not only undermines the authenticity of actual events but poses significant risks to unsuspecting individuals.

Having only yesterday received a friend request from ‘Axa Raheny Mile Live‘ (I hope by the time of posting, even if five minutes after is already removed by Facebook) and seeing a good friend from my club already a friend, I felt a little compelled to write this piece. The actual race, including its lead organisers have been prompt to come online to warn of the fake account. However, sometimes platforms such as Facebook are not so quick to remove potentially harmful accounts and even in the 12 hours or so since I first noticed this particular incident, that is ample time for fraudsters to obtain valuable information.

Around the time of Dublin City Marathon, I noticed a Facebook group being set up, which had nothing to do with the organisers or participants.

How Danger Lurks Online

Imagine this: You’re an avid fun runner and you come across a Facebook profile of what seems to be an upcoming race in your locality. The page looks legitimate, filled with exciting event details and maybe even registration links. In some cases, as with ‘Axa Raheny Mile Live’ you are sent a friend request and, without a second thought, you accept. You are now opening your profile which is often rich in personal details, to the possibility for all types of fraud.

In some cases people have even clicked on dubious links and entered their details, only to find out weeks later, it was all a scam. The race never existed, and your personal bank information is now in the hands of fraudsters.

This scenario is not just a possibility; it’s happening with increasing frequency across various social media platforms. I even had two fake profiles pretending to be a good uncle and another close friend tried to add me. There are some easy-to-identify signs which help make it clear when a profile is fake.

Identifying Fake Profiles: Red Flags to Watch Out For

  1. Lack of Verifiable Information: Genuine race organisers will have a solid online presence outside of social media, like an official website or a history of past events. If the only source of information is a Facebook page, proceed with caution.
  2. Poorly Constructed Social Media Pages: Look out for profiles with limited content, few followers, and low engagement rates. Often, these pages are hastily put together.
  3. Questionable followers: As much as I love Australia, Singapore and Japan, I found it a little strange that a legitimate page with its core following in Ireland, would start a new page and have many from the Asia Pacific fill the current followership.
  4. Inconsistencies in Details: Fake profiles may have inconsistencies in event details like dates, locations, or contact information. Cross-reference with official websites or trusted event listing platforms.
  5. Request for Personal Information: Be wary of profiles that ask for excessive personal or financial information, especially if it’s outside of a secured payment gateway.
  6. Too-Good-to-Be-True Offers: Scammers often lure victims with unbelievable deals, like significantly low registration fees for big events or new runwear!
  7. Unprofessional Communication: Pay attention to the language used on the page and in direct communications. Poor grammar, excessive typos, and an unprofessional tone are red flags. As I am sure most people in Leinster and indeed Ireland will know, this great race is not called the ‘Raheney Mile’.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Do Your Research: Before signing up for any event, particularly a new one, do a thorough background check. Look for reviews, check the event’s history, and confirm the legitimacy through multiple sources.
  • Use Secure Payment Methods: If you decide to register, ensure the payment is made through a secure, reputable platform. Avoid direct transfers to personal accounts.
  • Report Suspicious Profiles: If you come across a questionable profile, report it to the platform and warn your network.
  • Educate Your Network: Share information about these scams with your friends and family, especially those who are less tech-savvy.

Our digital world is filled with opportunities, but it’s also rife with risks. The emergence of fake race organiser profiles is a stark reminder of the need for vigilance in the online realm. By staying informed and cautious, we can enjoy the benefits of social media while protecting ourselves from its dangers.

Remember, when it comes to online interactions, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Never be afraid to reach out to the genuine organisation you are familiar with if in any doubt.