Online scam circulating via fake news stories and Facebook pages tricks people into buying fraudulent products
VANCOUVER | TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORIES OF THE xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) FIRST NATIONS — The David Suzuki Foundation is alerting media to an online hoax circulating throughout Canada (and potentially in the U.S.) since at least mid-June.
Posing as a variety of news sources (including NBC Universal), and sharing the fake news stories through dozens of fake Facebook pages, scammers have been propagating a false narrative about a legal battle between David Suzuki and famed investor and Dragons’ Den star Kevin O’Leary. The stories lead to fraudulent product pages, where readers are asked for credit card information. It appears at least hundreds of people, including many David Suzuki Foundation supporters, have been conned. Many gave their credit card information to buy the fraudulent CBD gummies.
“We really feel for anyone who has been tricked by this deceitful online scam,” David Suzuki Foundation incoming executive director Severn Cullis-Suzuki said. “We have alerted several relevant authorities and we’re hoping the fake news stories and social media accounts will be removed quickly. Forgive the pun, but we need to nip this one in the bud.”
The Foundation has reached out to several organizations for help with the scam: Facebook, the RCMP, NBC Universal, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Competition Bureau Canada, a media distribution service supposedly used by the scammers (called “11 Press”) and Kevin O’Leary’s team. So far, the RCMP and Facebook have replied. The RCMP’s National Division Intake Unit advised this matter is outside their jurisdiction and are suggesting people contact their local police or RCMP detachments. Facebook has uncovered approximately 20 fake Facebook pages promoting the gummies, but has only removed two of them.
“This is an example of the disturbing yet extremely successful industry of online scammers that prey on innocent people, and it’s a reminder of the importance of strong media literacy in this digital age,” Cullis-Suzuki said. “This kind of perpetuation of fake news is part of a greater trend that leads to everything from climate denial to vaccine skepticism and more. Improving everyone’s ability to tell the difference between real and fake information should always be a high priority.”
If you have information that might help bring these scammers to justice, please contact the Foundation at the information below.
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For more information or a media interview, please contact:
Brendan Glauser, firstname.lastname@example.org, 604-356-8829