VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Report on singer Marcelito Pomoy ‘found dead in hotel room’ NOT TRUE

Two websites recently published fake reports claiming Marcelito Pomoy, a Filipino singer and America’s Got Talent (AGT) semifinalist, was found dead in his hotel room after failing to bag the top spot in the latest installment of the American competition.

It’s fabricated. More, all the reports dubiously lead to one link.

Sites viralnewsupdate.livelikeyourdying.com and marcelitopomoy.s3.ap-east-1.amazonaws.com pretended to source the information from the British Broadcasting Channel (BBC) and published the morbid hoaxes with the headlines,

  • “BBC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: MARCELITO POMOY FOUND DEAD IN HIS HOTEL ROOM AFTER LOSING AMERICA GOT TALENT”
  • “BREAKING NEWS: MARCELITO POMOY FOUND DEAD IN HIS HOTEL ROOM AFTER LOSING AMERICA GOT TALENT | BBC NEWS:...”

Pomoy -- who in 2011 won Season 2 of Pilipinas Got Talent, the local counterpart of AGT -- is alive and kicking.

Pomoy just made an appearance at his hometown of Calauag, Quezon on Feb. 24, where he was given a hero’s welcome after returning from the United States following the conclusion of the American competition. He was also at a Feb. 25 festival in Quirino province where he performed with other artists.

The fake reports began making the rounds on social media shortly after AGT aired on Feb. 18 the episode announcing Pomoy won fourth place. The singer himself belied the hoax in a Feb. 22 Facebook (FB) post, appealing to its publishers to “please don’t post fake news just to earn views on YouTube.”

The death hoaxes on Pomoy all carried the same “video report” with a thumbnail showing him during his final AGT performance, grabbed from a Feb. 9 upload on the show’s official YouTube channel.

When the play button on the video is clicked, it leads to a site with the uniform resource locator (URL) 2018socialclub.com. From there, the report mirrors elements present in other death hoaxes that VERA Files Fact Check has debunked since 2018.

Whereas the reports on viralnewsupdate.livelikeyourdying.com and marcelitopomoy.s3.ap-east-1.amazonaws.com do not feature advertisements, the copy of the hoax hosted on 2018socialclub.com bears advertisements that take up more space than actual content, similar to past fake death reports.

The video, which now plays, also carries the same modus in the “video reports” also present in previous death hoaxes. Described as “Final Moments of Marcelito Pomoy Footage” and “ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF SUICE....,” the video, when opened, features a clip of Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto saying: “Finally, I have some very sad news to share with you.” This was lifted from a ten-minute long February 2017 Fox News tribute to one of its former hosts, Brenda Buttner, after she died of cancer.

Three seconds later, the video stops and instructs viewers to first share the report on FB before they could continue watching the rest of the video.

The same trick was used in a recent death hoax victimizing Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, which VERA Files Fact Check debunked on Feb. 11.

The timestamp of 2018socialclub.com’s report -- which pretends to look like an FB post by the BBC News -- also reads “1 hr ago,” which does not change despite the passage of time. A review of BBC News’ official website and official FB and Twitter accounts reveal that the media organization has never published any report on Pomoy -- much less a post on his supposed death.

Moreover, a look at 2018socialclub.com’s homepage also raises suspicions about its credibility. Typing only the web address leads to an error page in Ilokano, a language used in some provinces in the northern Philippines. The first part of the text -- “Agsirip ka manen!” -- translates to “You are peeping again!” and is usually displayed on websites notorious for publishing death hoaxes.

Viralnewsupdate.livelikeyourdying.com leads to the same Ilokano-language error page. Running the website URL through domain lookup tool Who.is would reveal that livelikeyourdying.com is a 12-day-old page, being registered only last Feb. 15.

Finally, marcelitopomoy.s3.ap-east-1.amazonaws.com is a classic example of a bogus page disguising as a legitimate website. Pretending to be related to commercial tech giant Amazon, going to the site’s homepage instead leads to a page that says “access denied.”

2018socialclub.com’s hoax on Pomoy could have reached nearly 200,000 social media users.

The hoax’s link appears to be a recycled one, as social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle was able to detect that the same exact URL showed a death hoax about Gerald Anderson in August 2019, shared by FB groups Philippine Fixed Gear (Buy & Sell) and Accounting Coach Philippines. These FB posts now show a broken link instead.

The website 2018socialclub.com was registered in March 2018, according to Who.is.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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