Online scammers target UK festivals’ 2020 virtual events

Some fans have been charged to access free content

Online scammers have reportedly been taking advantage of the increase in live-streamed events this summer, which have been hosted in lieu of cancelled festivals amid the coronavirus crisis.

According to The Guardian, phishing scams with fake website pages have been targetting music fans who have gone without live events for the most part of this year due to restrictions surrounding mass gatherings.

Despite many of the streams being free to access online, the scammers are reported to have launched bogus events and pages in the weeks ahead of the official broadcasts taking place.


It’s said that those behind the schemes have also been sharing fake links to the virtual shows on official festival social media accounts.

Kevin Tate, the editor of Festival & Events UK, discovered more than 41 illegitimate links to Reading & Leeds as well as 39 fake links to Bristol’s Love Saves the Day while posting the real links to various free streams on his website.

Leeds Festival
Leeds Festival CREDIT: Andy Ford/NME

“I thought it would be good to share the streams from some festivals, such as Download Festival on to my page, to get everyone involved during this pandemic,” he explained. “But I soon noticed spam coming across these official pages.

“That’s when I started to investigate it because I was wondering why would there be these fake links?”

He has since been made aware of people who have had various amounts of money – between £2.95 to £7.50 – removed from their accounts after accessing the content via the fake websites, which had been registered to countries such as Bangladesh.


This comes after the BBC hosted a celebration of Reading & Leeds festivals over the bank holiday weekend, when the 2020 edition of the dual event should have taken place.

Download Festival crowd
The crowd at Download Festival CREDIT: Katja Ogrin/Redferns

“I do know some festivals have had live streams over the weekends, and I do know people are clicking on the links and getting charged different amounts,” Tate told The Guardian. “One person will get charged a couple of pence, and the other will get charged pounds.”

He continued: “This may seem a small amount, but if you think about it, if the scammers get 100 people to click on their link, and people are charged different amounts, then it’s all going to add up.”

Kieran Alington, the director of Eventcube, also told the outlet that social media has helped scammers participate in such fraudulent activity. Alington’s company provides secure virtual platforms for the hosting of online-only events.

A spokesperson for Festival Republic – who run Reading & Leeds, Download, Latitude, Wireless and more – confirmed that Facebook “had been working to eliminate fake events”, though some “have continued to slip through”.

Festival Republic hosted their official ‘Download TV’ virtual event in June as well as ‘Wireless Connect’ in the following month. The promoter says that these “have been absolutely free and we’ve made that clear to our fans”.

“We do remind fans to always check to make sure the accounts and events they’re interacting with online are verified Festival Republic pages or our official, affiliate brand partners,” they advised. “We encourage them to protect themselves online and be wary of engaging with any spam or fraudulent pages.”