At least two businesses in the Maritimes have had their online contests hijacked by scammers in the past week.
The businesses, Nimrods' restaurant in P.E.I. and the snack-food company Made with Local in Nova Scotia, are warning customers not to be fooled by scammers telling them they won a contest and asking them to provide personal information such as credit card numbers.
Nimrods' began a contest recently in conjunction with the Facebook group P.E.I. Good News Only. Facebook users would like and share a post, and be eligible to win a $100 gift certificate.
But soon afterward, people were notified by scammers with a fake Nimrods' account saying they had won, and linking to a page where they were asked to provide credit card information.
"We started receiving messages from people saying, 'Is this fake or is this real?' and so then we knew there was an issue," said Nimrods' co-owner Mikey Wasnidge.
Nimrods' and the administrator of P.E.I. Good News Only quickly posted a message warning of the scam.
Sheena Russell, who is from P.E.I. and founded Made with Local in Dartmouth in 2012, said something similar happened with her company last week.
Made with Local, a company that creates food bars and baking mixes using local ingredients, was running a giveaway on Instagram offering a one-year supply of food bars, worth about $600.
"About 24 hours in, we started seeing fake accounts trying to lure people in to entering their personal information in exchange for their prize, which is clearly not how this actually works, so that was pretty upsetting," Russell said.
Wasnidge and Russell said they would contact the winners privately or post the name of the winner, and not ask for personal information.
Nobody reported losing money
Neither business owner contacted the police about the scam, and say they are relieved that, to their knowledge, nobody lost any money.
However, they are disappointed and discouraged that someone would target their company that way.
"It feels terrible," Russell said.
"We spent most of the day on Friday talking to people about how this wasn't us and please don't click the link, like trying to essentially protect people from getting duped into this which you know definitely kind of take the fun out of what we were trying to do."
Russell said they have run many contests in the past with no issues, but thinks the early success of the Instagram contest might have caught the attention of the scammers.
Wasnidge said it makes him wonder how far scammers are willing to go, and will make the company rethink how it does contests in the future.
"It's a little unnerving," he said. "It kind of hurts us that people are using the name Nimrods', you know, taking advantage of the recognizability and the familiarity and the support that that name has, and using that to trick people and make money."
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