Instagram giveaway a hoax, warns Pavilion shopping mall

Johannesburg - The Pavilion shopping centre in Durban on Tuesday warned of a fake Instagram account attempting to grow followers through a scam, while experts have cautioned social media users about the dangers of falling prey to these online hoaxes. 

‘The Pavilion Mall Westville’ – an account confirmed as a hoax by Fin24 after contacting the official mall management - said in its bio: “1st 5000 followers will receive R500 voucher to spend @ The Pavilion Mall Westville… Follow us, Take a screenshot, Upload the screenshot and Tag us.”

The Pavilion also confirmed in a statement that the account is a fake and that the mall does have an official account. 

“Dear Shoppers, please note a fake Instagram account has been created of The Pavilion Shopping Centre. Please note, this is not the official Instagram account of The Pavilion Shopping Centre and the management team is not running a competition online,” they said in the statement.

Despite the mall's warning the Instagram account, first noticed by The Pavilion on Monday night, is seeing steady growth with already over 1 000 followers by Tuesday morning. 

READ: Media fights back as invasion of fake news intensifies

Meanwhile, South African Airways (SAA) warned customers of a hoax survey circulating on WhatsApp messenger, claiming SAA is offering free tickets to fly anywhere.

“SAA is neither conducting an online survey nor offering free flight tickets. We have no association whatsoever with this so-called survey. Free flight tickets are a luxury we cannot afford at this stage as the airline is focusing on restoring financial stability and is managing its costs to improve its performance,” said SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali.

The scam, which was spread over WhatsApp as a URL to the hoax survey, has since been shut down; it invited participants to tell 10 friends on WhatsApp about the SAA survey. 

“We strongly warn everybody to ignore this hoax survey and to avoid clicking on the link if they receive it. There’s no telling what could happen to the devices of those who click on the link. It is better to heed the warning and exercise restraint (rather) than to be brave and regret,” Tlali said. 

READ: Watch out for this WhatsApp 'scam'

Echoing SAA's caution Steven Ambrose, online expert and CEO of technology consulting company Strategy Worx, said social media has become the new method of spreading spam. 

“Essentially, the use of social media for scams is the way to go because it is really easy to use as well as keeping the anonymity of the scammer,” Ambrose told Fin24. 

He added that while it may seem innocent, victims of these scams could fall prey to exposing themselves online with other details being put at risk. 

“Often people will share something on Instagram, while their accounts are linked to a Facebook profile and from their WhatsApp accounts. Users need to be extremely careful about what they share and what groups they belong to on all social networks, because you never know by simply liking a post what you are exposing yourself to,” he added.

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