How to tell whether a Facebook ad is a scam. A closer look at the airport luggage sale fraud

Cristina POPOV

January 19, 2024

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How to tell whether a Facebook ad is a scam. A closer look at the airport luggage sale fraud

From posts and messages that contain malicious links to fake copyright infringement notices to spam ads, Facebook has become fraudsters' favorite playground.

Let's take the lost luggage sale scam as an example, given its aggressive and global nature. Once you grasp the ins and outs – what to watch for and how to instantly verify – you can apply this savvy to any ad that triggers the slightest suspicion.

How a scam takes flight

The airport luggage sale ad has been circulating on Facebook for the last two months, offering people a "chance" to buy unclaimed suitcases for just $3 each. The scammers claim they're making space in warehouses by quickly getting rid of thousands of supposedly lost suitcases.

These fake Facebook pages pretend to be official airport pages of various international airports from all over the world: New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Oslo, the UK, Qatar, Denmark, Ireland, Malta, and many others.

The pages are almost identical, with minor edits of currency to match the country where the airport was based and written in a language native to the respective country's airport.

None of these accounts is affiliated with real airports, and their only goal is to lure individuals into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords.

Did you know?

Between January 2021 and June 2023 in the United States:

  • One in four individuals who reported losing money to fraud revealed that it started on social media.
  • A staggering $2.7 billion was reported lost to scams on social media platforms.
  • The most frequently cited source of these scams is Facebook and Instagram advertisements.

Unpacking the luggage scam

Let's dig deeper into the tricks behind the luggage scam. These scammers are running their con like experienced advertisers, weaving a story of urgency, charity, and a touch of truth to lure unsuspecting victims.

The message: "We are urgently clearing out the airport warehouse and selling luggage that has been unattended for more than six months. According to the rules, it should be disposed of, but we are organizing a charity event and giving it away for just $3," the website said.

Factcheck: Can you buy unclaimed luggage?

Yes. Airports usually commission private auction houses to sell at public auction those pieces of baggage and lost property such as cell phones, laptops, and jackets whose owners cannot be determined. However, some airports also conduct suitcase auctions themselves on airport property.

The photos: Scammers use photoshopped pictures of dozens of suitcases with airport logos and signs.

The testimonials: A network of fabricated profiles comments on scam posts, posing as happy customers who have received suitcases filled with expensive shoes, perfumes, and toiletries.


"Just received mine, didn't expect to find so well-packed suitcase, just surprised,"

"Picked up my suitcase today. It was a pleasant anticipation, and for good reason! Inside were a lot of different cosmetics and perfumes. I am very happy with my purchase. Where else could I have got it all for 9.95$?"

"I'm in shock. It's a jackpot, friends!!! I can't believe it."

"This is a very interesting promotion! The first time I got a suitcase with ordinary stuff, ordered a second time and got a MacBook, iPhone, headphones and expensive stuff!"

The call to action: The social media users who click on the "shop now" button end up on a fake airport website and are asked for personal details.

Authorities warn about this scam

Official airports and authorities have issued warnings about this scam, while Facebook is taking down the fake pages as they get reported. However, scammers are pretty persistent, and new counterfeit pages keep popping up.

Sometimes, you may miss official warnings or see them too late. That's why it's always better to have your own 'safety kit' against scams and rely on know-how and tools that help you discern.

Here are some ways to protect yourself against Facebook ad scams

Change your privacy settings. Share less and limit who sees your posts, personal info, and activities.

Research before clicking on an ad: Check out the company before purchasing anything from an ad. A simple online search with the company name plus "scam" or "complaint" can help you determine whether they are genuine or have tricked people.

Review comments and reviews. While many may be from fake profiles, you may also come across genuine experiences shared by other users, warning about the scam.

Verify it with Bitdefender Scamio. Run suspicious content, such as messages, SMS, photos, emails, links, and QR codes, through Bitdefender Scamio. Copy and paste the text to get an instant verdict and steer clear of scammers.


If you spot a scam, report it. If you know anyone who would find Bitdefender Scamio helpful, share it. It's free, easy to use, and can save them a lot of trouble.



Cristina POPOV

Cristina is a freelance writer and a mother of two living in Denmark. Her 15 years experience in communication includes developing content for tv, online, mobile apps, and a chatbot.

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