Followers in Need : The Children in Need Twitter Scam

by admin 13. November 2010 21:25

 

I noticed on Twitter today many tweets and retweets of @FollowersInNeed's request to follow them in exchange for a 50p per follower donation to Children in Need. I did think this rather generous given the potential to obtain hundreds of thousands of followers. Who were Followers in Need and where was the money coming from? Was this for real or a scam? These are the questions that were asked of @FollowersInNeed by @ACloakedFigure @BackConsulting @DaveGorman @jackofkent @Charonqc and others.

I asked "But can you simply explain to everyone where the money is coming from to meet your pledge?".

Answers were not forthcoming.

The bio of @FollowersInNeed stated that "money is being raised in some local villages & large companies have donated money!". A tweet claimed that they had already raised £20,000 which would cover 40,000 followers. They were apparently still raising funds. What if the funds raised did not equate to the eventual number of followers x 50p? They were being asked this but were not answering. The reality was that they had probably not raised a single penny from anyone and had no funds to meet the 50p x followers pledge.

Why would 'some local villages & large companies' donate money to Followers in Need rather than directly to Children in Need?

As @DaveGorman tweeted:-

In a very short space of time @FollowersInNeed were receiving retweets from many celebrities such as @Amanda_Holden:-

Such endorsements no doubt helped them to an ever increasing follower count which stood at 12,433 late this afternoon. That is £6,216.50 worth of donations. However, the pressure of questioning from doubting tweeters was clearly getting to them. They had no answers to give. They crumbled and changed the name of their account to @closingaccount_

Interesting that once the game was up they were tweeting "mm", then "bored.." A claim that they were donating £7,000 to Children In Need could no doubt be taken with a pinch of salt. True colours were then revealed with "someone else will take over this account and use it for something else. So please don't unfollow! Especially Amanda Holden, The Wanted, JLS and saturdays fans!! ..And cheryl fans!". Was this the real reason for the scam - simply to gain followers for other purposes? Whatever their reasons it is despicable to use a Charity as a front for such activity. As we have seen at InkstersGive Twitter can be a very powerful force for fundraising. It is a great pity when people abuse this power.

The account then became @lovingtheholden ('lucky Amanda Holden!' as @DaveGorman tweeted) and then @lovingteamsats (lucky The Saturdays). Goodness knows what it is now if it still exists. Hopefully the owner of the account has realised the error of their ways and simply deleted it.

@DaveGorman gives a very good account of what happened and his views and advice in the longest TwitLonger I have seen:-

"I need more than 140chars to answer all the Qs I'm getting about the FollowersInNeed charity scam. Here goes:

1) Lots of ppl were asking me to RT a link to who were promising to donate 50p to Children In Need for every follower they got.

2) That seemed a bit dodgy to me. I mean, that's a promise that requires unlimited funds & there was nothing on their page to explain who they were or how their donation was really related to their follower count.

3) I asked them to verify themselves.

4) They didn't. It became pretty clear it was a scam - any legitimate donor would have been leaping at the chance to prove they were legit.

5) They changed the name of the account. First to something about how much they liked Amanda Holden, then to and the last time I checked to (they're fans of The Saturdays) A lot of people have asked me what I think they were getting out of the scam or what harm it was doing. I *think* they were probably young girls getting the same thrill kids get when they knock on a door and run away... a simple, "ha ha... look what we did!" I might be wrong. There are other worse interpretations available involving malware or spam etc.

6) It's true that they weren't making money out of it. But charity-fatigue is a well known phenomenon. Nobody can RT every charity request they get. If someone chose to RT that one instead of another, real good cause then they have done some damage.

7)When they changed their name, cleverly nabbed the old name to ensure that nobody could use for such purposes again. Well done him.

8)I'm told there are other accounts making similar promises. I haven't looked at them and am not suggesting that they are definitely dodgy. Nor do I know if they're legit. I encourage everyone to apply common sense. If they are legit they should have no problem in verifying how they do what they do. Ask yourself who would donate 50p to a charity in return for you following them - especially if they remain anonymous? How would they afford it? etc.

9) In summary: It was a scam. Not one that tried to steal money, just one that wasted people's time and distracted them from other good causes. The account *now* using that name is controlled by someone else and is harmless.

10)You can follow the official Children In Need twitter account at - but of course you following them doesn't raise any money. You can donate at http://www.bbc.co.uk/pudsey"

UPDATE

Dave Gorman (@DaveGorman) has also blogged on this topic at Beware of Twitter Scams as has George Pearson (@gdhp) on his 57 WPM blog.

See also on the Inksters Give Blog: Follow me Record : Another Children in Need Twitter Scam?

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This blog follows Brian Inkster & Nicola Walls as they prepare, fundraise, travel and build houses for Habitat for Humanity as part of the Argentina Global Village Challenge 2009. inkstersgive.com is the Corporate Social Responsibility website of Inksters Solicitors with the aim in 2009 of raising awareness of and money for Habitat for Humanity.

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