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Photography Yvette de Wit, via Unsplash

Scammers are charging people to view free festival livestreams

Facebook phishing schemes are targeting music events which have been forced online due to the coronavirus pandemic

Normally on this day (September 1), revellers from Reading and Leeds Festival and Notting Hill Carnival would be nursing comedowns and hangovers, and posting pics from their bank holiday festivities on Instagram. But, thanks to coronavirus, we all spent the weekend inside watching these events unfold virtually.

One group who benefitted from this migration to digital is scammers, who have taken advantage of all the cancelled events by charging people to view free livestreams. As reported by The Guardian, a number of Facebook phishing schemes have been set up to redirect users from official event pages – which offer free access to virtual festivals – to websites that illegally charge them to join the action.

Speaking to The Guardian, Kevin Tate, the editor of Festival & Events UK, revealed that he found a number of fake event pages which were set up weeks or days before the targeted online festival began. He says he knows of a number of people who were scammed out of amounts ranging from £2.95 to £7.50.

“I do know some festivals have had livestreams over the weekend, and I do know some people are clicking on the links and getting charged different amounts,” Tate told the newspaper. “One person will get charged a couple of pence, and the other will get charged pounds. This may seem like a small amount, but if the scammers get 100 people to click on their link, then it’s all going to add up.”

A spokesperson from Festival Republic, which promotes festivals including Reading and Leeds and Wireless, added: “Facebook tells us they have been working to eliminate fake events on their platform, but some have continued to slip through. We do remind fans to always check to make sure the accounts and events they’re interacting with online are verified Festival Republic pages, or our official, affiliate brand partners.”

There are companies that provide secure virtual platforms for hosting events, which offer self-service ticketing systems. These ensure that those with tickets aren’t selling them onto friends or others, and that attendees can be confident they won’t be scammed by clicking on the wrong link.

Shambala Festival, which usually takes place over the bank holiday weekend in Northamptonshire, refused to stream its 2020 digital event on Facebook, in order to avoid scammers. The festival said: “Going online makes everything a bit more susceptible for scammers to do their thing. By streaming on our own, we’re side-stepping these nonsense merchants to ensure you lot can enjoy the weekend with a total sense of cyber security. So if you see a Shambala digital event claiming to be happening on Facebook, it ain’t ours.”

As festival season draws to a close, many are left wondering if the events will be able to return IRL next year. Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis offered a glimmer of hope over the weekend, reassuring festivalgoers that she’s “still very much aiming” to run the event in June 2021, despite her father and co-organiser Michael Eavis recently suggesting it may not return until 2022. Either way, it’s still a sold-out affair, meaning those without tickets might have to wait until 2023 to try their luck at attending.