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On Tuesday Week 1, the pages ‘Lancaster Fresher’s 2017-2018’ and ‘What’s ON? – Lancaster’ shared the fake event ‘Lancaster Student’s Puppy Petting Day’ over Facebook, where over 350 are going, and over 650 more are interested.
Lancaster University Students’ Union, along with other University Unions have claimed the event is fake. The organisers insist on Facebook that it is real, but they have no information about location and have not responded to SCAN’s request for comment. They also claim that only a small number of students had been “selected” for the event.
Sign-up required students to enter their personal information into a Google Docs Document to attend the day, which actually spans several days from October 1st-7th.
Puppy petting days are quite common at universities, especially during Mental Health Weeks. However, the hosts of this event want to exploit Lancaster University Students in the hopes to obtain their personal information.
The Union warned students of this event on their Facebook page and declared that: “This event and this page are in no way linked to Lancaster University or Lancaster University Student’s Union. The event and sign up is being used to capture student’s personal information”.
The Union also prompted students to report the Facebook page and event as scam, encouraging students to question the sources and origins of events to prevent further fake events like this from capturing student’s attention further. A warning was also put under the notifications tab of Moodle.
Another popular, but seemingly false event that may have caught your attention, is the ‘Project X House Party’ hosted by ‘UK House Parties’ and ‘What’s ON? – Lancaster’, where 630 are going, 990 are interested and 307 are invited. Although this event, as of yet, has an unspecified location, it becomes clear that these fake events are reaching out, misleading and exploiting hundreds of students. Although this particular event does not request personal information from students, the network of groups that hosts the events gain likes and publicity. It does not take a genius to work out that this means these events can enlist and reach a wider audience of students.
Other pages being run by the same network include ‘Valentines Day Gifts & Ideas – Lancaster’ and ‘Underground Events Lancaster – What’s ON?’.
After further investigation by SCAN, we found that all fake events are hosted by ‘What’s ON? – Lancaster’. They are all being shared and can be traced back to the profile of Charlotte Harris who posts and advertises these events.
Another profile, belonging to Christian Samuel, was also sharing Puppy Petting Days – but not one at Lancaster University. SCAN approached the real Christian Samuel, who said his company (University Cribs) are hosting genuine Puppy Petting Days at a select number of Universities. He told SCAN that the fake events were being hosted by Jonny Ransome, the Director of “Midnight Mischief Events”, an event company based in Manchester. He said that Charlotte Harris was an employee of Ransome’s.
Both Charlotte and Christian coin themselves as ‘Lancaster Applicant Guides’ and have over thirty identical profiles for different universities. These universities include Salford, the University of Leeds and York, to name but a few. It seems there is a separate profile for each university in the United Kingdom. Hence, these events are not just targeting the students of Lancaster but the student population as a whole.
Charlotte also has links to various Facebook pages: including ‘University Applicants Guide’ posing as a student connection service, which runs groups for every single university, ranging from the North, to the South, Midlands, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The scope and therefore outreach of these Facebook pages are incredible. This Facebook page includes fake Fresher’s events for different universities and can be traced back to chat groups for every university. For Lancaster, it is the group ‘Lancaster Fresher’s 2017 -2018’, mentioned above.
This Facebook page also ran a seemingly fake competition, complete with false prizes. It asked students to share and tag their friends in the photo to win £950, a Macbook Pro, a Macbook Air, Moet, a VIP night for friends and more. It seems that this was an attempt to widen their followers and increase the number of people that liked their pages. They did not respond when approached for comment by SCAN.
When following this web of network and connections, SCAN found that the Facebook events lead back to the website www.guidetouniversity.co.uk . On this website, specific tabs are designed to gauge information from prospective students such as ‘Find your course mates’ and ‘Find out about the best Freshers Parties’.
At first glance of this website, it urges Freshers to register and sign up to their website. It asks for personal information such as name and phone number.
The registrant details of the website, as well as the affiliation links to external services, point to someone called “Jonny” based in Manchester – which points back to Midnight Mischief Events.
Jonny Ransome, however, repeatedly ignored a request for comment from SCAN.
The Student’s Union encourages Lancaster Student to check The Union’s official website, the University of Union Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org if further information is required.