VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Viral ‘PCSO pamasko giveaways’ FAKE

With the holiday season drawing near, two deceptive Facebook (FB) accounts posing as official pages of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) have been publishing bogus “early Christmas” giveaway raffles.

These are fake. PCSO has made no announcements of such giveaways in its official website and FB page.

Last Oct. 5, the state-run sweepstakes office even issued an advisory warning netizens of such fake pages and accounts that use the agency’s name and logo to spread false information. “Always look for the BLUE BADGE indicating the official FB account of PCSO,” the agency said.

The circulating bogus raffles have at least two versions, and were published from Oct. 13 to 26.

The one published by the account Hèró Ng Pàndémyà phishes for personal information, telling FB users to send their full name, address and contact details via a private message, and then asks the “participants” to comment “Thank you PCSO” many times.

The other, by the account Hèrõ Pàndèmyà, claimed to have a prize pool of over P10 million, and instructed FB users to like the post and comment “PCSO” 30 times.

Both required FB users to share the posts multiple times, and directed followers to “like” or “follow” a link to another FB page or account, that eventually leads to more bogus giveaways.

A similar account, called Hèró Sa Pàndémyà, was actually shown in PCSO’s Oct. 5 advisory and was labeled “FAKE PAGE” and “FAKE NEWS” by the agency. PCSO said the account is “not in any way connected to nor authorized by PCSO.”

All three accounts deceptively used as their profile picture a photo of PCSO General Manager Royina Garma grabbed from an August 2019 FB video. They also used a number of photos that showed P1,000-bills, people holding money, and personality figures like President Rodrigo Duterte, in an attempt to make the posts look legitimate.

VERA Files Fact Check has flagged five of these bogus raffles, which have collectively accumulated more than 2,300 reactions, 18,500 comments and 4,300 shares.

The fake posts drew interest as many Filipinos continue to face challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported last month that 4.6 million Filipinos aged 15 and up were unemployed in July, which is double the number in the same period last year. But the number of jobless people in July was lower compared to earlier months when businesses were temporarily closed.

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