The much-anticipated 2022 fall sports season is wrapping up this month at Nassau County schools, but it’s already left behind an unexpected legacy: hundreds of Facebook event pages claiming to provide livestreamed high school sports games, scheduled according to actual schools’ game calendars.
When searching for events on Facebook’s homepage, the names of local villages and high schools plus “football,” “volleyball” or “soccer” bring up dozens of fake event pages for each combination. These seem to closely follow the actual schedules of high school games in the 2022 fall season, with the exception of length: the majority of such event pages claim to have over nine-hour video streams of high school games, which usually don’t take more than a few hours. Schools’ game schedules generally aren’t too hard to find online, whether on school homepages or on sports administrators’ sites, such as states’ school athletic association homepages.
Many of the game dates reviewed have multiple different, variously spammy-looking event pages for a single game. The event cover images are usually stock images or fliers for the sport in question, and the posts seem to come from dozens of similarly inauthentic-seeming Facebook user profiles.
These event pages, none of which seem to have come from schools or communities themselves, offer up different links to variously suspicious pages offering free streaming services, or paid access, to high school sports.
These kinds of online ‘phishing’ scams aren’t new, but their presence on Facebook in reference to Nassau County teams seems to be. Searches suggest that last year, when school sports were still operating at a lower gear (and when students were already old hands at online and blended learning), fake Facebook events for streams weren’t being posted for our area on Facebook.
High schools in other states, however, appear to have been plagued with this fakery since at least the fall of 2020.
In October 2020, the Arizona website Sports360AZ warned readers about the exact same kind of scam: fake event pages on Facebook, created by bots, that direct people toward suspicious links for streaming games.
“It’s bad enough family and friends can’t go to high school football games due to COVID-19, so watching game streams is the only way families can watch their athletes play this year,” journalist Devon Henry wrote at the time. “With a dependence on streams, bots on Facebook have aggressively started a campaign to take advantage of all high school football communities across the nation.”
In fall 2021, North Carolina’s The Graham Star informed readers that the N.C. High School Athletic Assocation (NCHSAA) was warning parents and community members about fake streaming events on Facebook as well as Twitter and YouTube.
“Scammers know that people are looking for ways to follow their local high school team without being able to attend due to the pandemic,” said NCHSAA Assistant Commissioner for Media Relations James Alverson in September ‘21. “This is a quick and easy way for someone to take advantage of the high school sports fanbase and our member schools. We want to do everything we can to ensure that fans of our member schools do not fall prey to these scammers.”
This past August, just before the 2022 fall sports season kicked off, News4JAX in Jacksonville, FL reported that the Better Business Bureau had even started trying to warn the public about social media posts “that promise free, live streaming and then ask you to sign up for the service with your name and email.”
Journalist Jennifer Waugh explained in her article, “The site will ask for a credit card number and potentially more sensitive information, which is a big red flag.”
While aspects of these fake sports streams may set off alarm bells for many social media users, less experienced platform users could easily be taken in, especially when a family member’s game is minutes from starting and there’s a rush to find the right link, say.
For families and community members of Nassau County schools (public and private) that are being affected, the events also amount to a small mountain of spam that slows down the search for real event or streaming pages: one that’s potentially very annoying, if not confusing or risky, for community sports fans who don’t have the option of attending live.
Here in our area, different schools use different methods for their actual sports livestreams, and few if any seem to be posting those links on Facebook, for the record.
Some high schools use YouTube to host livestreams of their games (where videos can also be watched after the fact, too); others use paid platforms like Hudl, but may not ever post those links publicly, or record games solely for coaches’ and teams’ review.
If you’d like to take advantage of streaming technology to keep up with your favorite local sports teams, we recommend reaching out to schools, coaches, or team members directly for that information or link.
And once you have it, it’s probably a good idea not to post that information publicly; instead, share it with people in your (real-life) circle directly.