Air ambulance charity forced to cancel competition after being targeted by scammers

Wales Air Ambulance says fraudsters used fake Instagram and Facebook accounts to try to fool potential supporters into sharing personal information

(Photograph: Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)
(Photograph: Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)

An air ambulance charity has called on social media companies for help after being targeted by online scammers over the weekend.

Wales Air Ambulance Charity started a competition on Friday offering the chance to win a visit to one of its bases.

But the charity said fraudsters used fake Instagram and Facebook accounts to try to fool potential supporters into sharing personal information.

It abandoned the competition once it became aware of the fraud attempts.

The charity alerted Instagram to the problem on Sunday, via its Twitter feed, and asked the social media company for help getting the fake accounts removed.

It also urged its supporters not to share any details using the fraudulent profiles.

Steven Stokes, director of strategic communications and engagement at Wales Air Ambulance Charity, said: "As part of the charity’s new rebrand, we offered our supporters a chance to enter a competition to win an airbase visit.

"Entries were via our Facebook and Instagram accounts. The scammers have since set up fake Wales Air Ambulance Facebook and Instagram accounts and are using the competition to encourage people to click a link and ‘register’, where they then gain personal/financial details from our dedicated supporters."

Stokes said the charity identified the issue early on and acted immediately by informing its followers and reporting the fake accounts to the social media companies.

"The reporting process to date has been frustrating, for both us and our supporters, with a lack of acknowledgement and action from the companies involved," he said. 

"However, we continue to do everything we can to have these fake accounts removed.

"In addition, we have cancelled the competition in a bid to stop this scam from escalating. We hope that this will further help our supporters to distinguish between the real and fake accounts and protect them from this fraudulent activity."

He said it was "extremely disappointing that there are people who have no conscience when it comes to targeting a charity and its lifesaving supporters" but said it was a rare occurrence.

"For clarification, our Facebook account is ‘Wales Air Ambulance Charity’ NOT ‘Wales Air’ Ambulance Charity’. Our Instagram username is ‘@air_ambulance’ NOT ‘@wales_air_ambulance_charity’," said Stokes. 

Government data released earlier this year that said about one in three charities had been the victims of cyber crime in the past 12 months.

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