There's no such thing as a free lunch, or movie. Thousands of film fans in the U.K. are disappointed right now after falling for a social media scam offering them free movie passes. Scams like these aren't uncommon and can seem harmless, but that's not always the case.
Recently, an Instagram account that looked like it belonged to U.K. movie theater chain ODEON Cinemas popped up on the photo-sharing network and offered the first 75,000 a ticket to see six films free. The problem is ODEON Cinemas didn't actually run the account. But, the over 70,000 people who followed it didn't know that.
So, what's the big deal? On the surface it seems harmless. The duped followers just don't get their tickets. But, a scam like this could be a part of a larger attack. For instance, the people behind the fake account could post a link to "redeem" the offer that actually leads to a site loaded up with malware.
Scams like this aren't rare, and they can happen in the U.S., too.
A quick search for ODEON Cinemas on Instagram turns up several accounts with similar scams. It's not just in the U.K., either. I searched for AMC Theatres on the social app and found fake accounts offering free tickets, too.
Look at this AMC Theatres scam on Instagram.
Luckily, social media scams aren't too hard to avoid. Both Facebook and Twitter will put a blue verified check mark next to popular celebrities and brands so you know you're following a legit account. Instagram doesn't verify accounts yet, but the Washington Post reported in early December that it has plans to do so soon.
Until then, the best way to verify a company's account is to go to its website. Just about every business with social media accounts will link to them from the website, so you can check there to find a link to the real account.