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Eventbrite: ‘No evidence’ of vaccine scams in Florida

Ticketing firm Eventbrite, best known for its global self-service event platform and club ticketing business in the US, has said there is no evidence its platform is being used to scam people in Florida, where officials are employing it to book appointments for Covid-19 vaccinations.

Following reports of people setting up fake events on Eventbrite that charge a fee for vaccination slots, Florida legislators are fast-tracking a bill that would make it a felony (ie a serious crime) to target people with bogus event listings, reports Tampa’s ABC Action News. “We want to send a very clear message that if you do that, if you stand in the way of a vulnerable population and a vaccine that they want to get, we are coming for you,” says Chris Sprowls, speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. “And when we do come for you, there will be handcuffs that will be involved.”

The use of Eventbrite is one of a number of novel methods local authorities in the US are using to get Covid-19 vaccines to citizens, with survey site SurveyMonkey and “companies like Google and Apple” also providing vaccine booking facilities, according to ABC News.

In Florida, Eventbrite has attracted the attention of the state’s attorney-general, Ashley Moody, who warned locals in a ‘consumer alert’ that scammers allegedly are using the platform “to pose as county health departments and take or attempt to take payments in exchange for Covid-19 vaccine appointments.”

“We have determined people mistakenly created new event listings when they meant to sign up for a time slot”

However, a spokesperson for the company says an internal investigation found no evidence of the scams Moody describes, with several unofficial event listings, some of which included a fee, the result of “user error” rather than fraudulent activity.

“Our team has thoroughly investigated and not found any evidence of vaccine registration events being created with the intent to scam people. We have confirmed the unofficial event listings in question, some which included a fee, were the result of user error. More specifically, we have determined people mistakenly created new event listings when they meant to sign up for a time slot.

“We recognise this has caused confusion and have published a guide on how to sign up for a time slot on Eventbrite. Additionally, we are continuing to closely monitor and remove any unofficial listings.

“We encourage anyone who finds potentially unofficial vaccine event listings on our platform to notify us. This resource helps people identify and report unofficial vaccination events, which can be done through our report this event feature, located at the bottom of every event listing on Eventbrite.

“Covid-19 vaccine distribution is a critical initiative, and we are actively exploring how our platform can best support the effort to increase access to vaccines.”

 


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Streaming scams target live music fans

A host of new streaming scams have cropped up in the past few months, with fraudsters setting up phoney Facebook pages and listing non-existent live streams in a bid to access personal information.

Streaming – be it of live performances, recorded music, films or television shows – has been an important part of accessing entertainment during lockdown, as music venues and cinemas remain shuttered and festivals are cancelled.

Criminals have capitalised on the increased time spent online, as well as the novelty of the accessing content in this way for many, and the uncertainty that has come with the Covid-19 crisis in general, to successfully target consumers across all sectors of society.

Major streaming services, including Netflix and Spotify, have been targeted by fraudsters, who have sent official-looking emails asking users to update their payment information.

Live music fans are also being targeted, with some scammers directing traffic away from legitimate live streams to their own page, in a bid to pocket “donations” or “tips” given to performers, and others posting false listings of livestreamed gigs and festivals to get hold of personal information.

Two such pages, one posing as Universal Music Group (@GroupMusicUniversal) and the other going under the name of Live Concert Music, list upcoming live streams for Rolling Loud Portugal, Michael Kiwanuka and Jill Scott, Cage the Elephant, Montreux Jazz Festival, Nickelback, Robbie Williams, Brad Paisley and Dave Matthews Band, among others.

Almost all streams are listed as happening on the same day, with links landing on pages for sites called Eventflix and Stream Concert. A section below the supposed streams show comments from “fans” – almost identical for each one – discussing the lack of lag, commending the quality of the stream and recommending the service to others.

“There is more opportunity for criminals to try and trick people into parting with their money at a time when they are anxious and uncertain about the future”

Viewers are encouraged to register for free in order to view the content, leading to a page asking for contact details and other information.

Another kind of streaming scam has seen hackers hijack YouTube channels to impersonate Elon Musk’s SpaceX channel, generating around $150,000 in Bitcoins.

The creation of unofficial event pages on Facebook is not a new phenomenon in the live events world. In 2018, IQ reported on a trend which saw phoney pages set up to drive fans to secondary ticketing sites, rather than official sellers. Email scams have also targeted fans, agents, promoters, festival organisers, artists and others for years.

The increase in streaming scams responds directly to the current climate, as more and more turn to online services – many for the first time – to experience live events.

“As more people stay indoors and work from computers and laptops at home, there is more opportunity for criminals to try and trick people into parting with their money at a time when they are anxious and uncertain about the future,” City of London police commander Karen Baxter, national co-ordinator of economic crime warned consumers at the end of March, just weeks into the coronavirus lockdown.

“It is important that we continue to raise awareness of fraud and protect ourselves, and the vulnerable people in our communities, the best we can.”

A further warning was issued by the National Trading Standards in the UK today, as the easing of lockdown measures is expected to bring on a surge of scam telephone calls in particular.

Members of the public are encouraged to protect themselves against scams by joining Friends Against Scams, a free online initiative that provides training to help people take a stand against scams.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Festivalgoers’ data for sale in latest email scam

Email marketers are offering to sell lists of festival attendee data to music business professionals, in the latest suspected email scam to target the live industry.

IQ has learnt that alleged fraudsters have offered to sell the data of attendees to “many events across Europe”, including Norway’s Øya Festival and the UK’s Tramlines, to booking agencies and record labels.

The majority of the emails, all sharing the same format, come from several email addresses traced by IQ to one Vikram H, operating from an apartment block in Bangalore, India. If one takes Vikram up on his offer, respondents are directed to a company registered anonymously in Arizona. None of the people involved responded to multiple requests for comment.

The alleged scam entails offering music businesses the opportunity to purchase attendees’ full names, email addresses, job titles, complete mailing addresses and phone numbers.

“My guess is that they either don’t have the information they claim to have, or they have nicked the info from our Facebook event somehow”

It is suggested that the data, which is supposed collected from “permission-based, double opt in contacts”, compliant with the new GDPR regulations, be used for “pre-show and post-show marketing campaigns, appointment setting and networking”. It is unclear whether said individuals are actually in possession of the information.

A list of data for 25,127 Øya attendees is priced at US$298. The number is a small proportion of the more than 100,000 visitors expected at this year’s festival – which takes place from 6 to 10 August – but was “very much the same number” as those attending on Øya’s Facebook event at the time of the quotation, says the festival’s chief executive, Tonje Kaada.

“They claim to have gathered the data from surveys, and that all the contacts have agreed to receive emails and calls from third-party companies,” Kaada tells IQ. “My guess is that they either don’t have the information they claim to have, or they have nicked the info from our Facebook event somehow.”

The live music industry has seen several similar scams in recent months. In June, Asian promoters received emails from fraudsters posing as agents of high-profile acts. A scam also targeted artists, with bogus UK festival directors offering acts non-existent headline slots.

 


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UK festivals targeted by email scammers

The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) has issued a warning to its members following reports of fraudulent emails inviting international artists to play at UK festivals.

The director of Cornwall Folk Festival, who was first alerted to the scam in June, reported the fake emails to the AFO today (July 3).

Posing as festival directors, the email scammers offer bogus bookings to artists to replace allegedly cancelled headline acts, and take payments from those who pursue the invite.

According to the AFO, the Isle of Wight Festival has also been targeted by the scam.

“We’ve been inundated over the past two weeks with dozens of emails from musicians asking us if the offer is for real,” says Cornwall Folk Festival director Adrian Jones.

“The offer is quite credible. It includes details that a musician would recognise as part of a plausible contract, including transport, accommodation and a back line. And not a spelling mistake in sight, which is most unusual for spam.

“The offer is quite credible – it includes details that a musician would recognise as part of a plausible contract”

“The con is surely being played on the artists, who may well find themselves being asked for a deposit for flights. We’re only being contacted by those who realise it is a scam. We have no idea if others have replied and are in conversation with the spammers,” adds Jones.

This is the second time in as many months that an industry association has drawn attention to email scammers.

In May, the UK’s Entertainment Agents’ Association warned that fraudsters were posing as agents representing artists such as Adele, Justin Timberlake and Eminem, asking promoters for deposits in exchange for fictional live dates.

Cornwall Folk Festival takes place from Thursday 22 to Monday 26 August in Wadebridge, North Cornwall. Headline acts include the Unthanks, Steve Knightley and Flats and Sharps.

 


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