Temperatures have dropped and back-to-school is just around the corner. But if you still haven’t managed to get away this summer, you could easily fall for a WhatsApp scam, which purports to be an Emirates Airlines giveaway offering 5000 free return flights to Europe or Asia.
Sounds great, doesn’t it, and if you receive a message about this prize promotion, it would be very easy to tap the link it contains. Afterall, it looks pretty plausible and even features the red Emirates logo familiar to most football fans (and especially Arsenal supporters). However, please don’t give in to temptation and click, because I can assure you that no good will come of it if you do.
I am in no doubt the Emirates giveaway is a scam and this was confirmed by a spokesperson for Emirates itself, who told Which?: ‘The recent online competition being shared on WhatsApp offering free flights is a hoax and has nothing to do with Emirates. Our competitions are always run from our officially verified social media channels or our official website, Emirates.com.’
This particular scam (and you can read more about scams in general on the Prizeology blog) does seem to be ‘cutting through’ though, as people have apparently been googling the supposed promotion like mad and searches for ‘Emirates ticket giveaway’ have gone up 4000% in the last couple of weeks.
So what would the consequences be if you were to follow the link in the message (and just so you know, it reads ‘Emirates Airlines 2022 Vacation Giveaway’)? I haven’t done it myself, because I’m no fool and don’t want to compromise my online safety. That means I can’t tell you exactly what would happen, but because at Prizeology we’re experts in fraud control for prize promotions I do know it would likely be one of the following.
The link might take you to a web page where you would be persuaded to disclose personal data; it might manufacture a reason for you to transfer a sum of money to another bank account; it might download ransomware that locks you out of your device until you pay some kind of fee; or it might download malware that collects personal data from your device, potentially unbeknownst to you.
Even if you’re convinced you wouldn’t give away your bank account details or send cash (as a prize promotions company, when we send cash we do it like this), unless you’re an IT security expert it’s difficult to defend yourself against ransomware or malware, so don’t put yourself in a position where you need to. Having said that, if you do, don’t beat yourself up, because scammers are smart and know how to push people’s buttons, whoever and however old you are.
In this case the scammers have hidden the fraudulent web address behind a Tiny URL short link. This looks perfectly normal – organisations shorten links all the time – but it could be an indicator that this is a scam, because brands now know they need to be transparent and make it clear that their links are genuine.
So if you’re unlucky enough to receive this scam promotion message, what should you do, apart from not clicking on it? I believe this Emirates scam has also appeared on Facebook, but in WhatsApp, open the relevant chat, then tap Report followed by Block. This should ensure you don’t receive any further unwanted messages from this number and you can then go ahead and delete the conversation. In England and Wales, you can also report scams to Action Fraud.
Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and a Scambassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team.