Inside the Tinder TOWIE spam ‘scam’

By James Cook on November 26th, 2013
  • Several London venues accuse Aquila of hosting ‘fake’ competitions
  • Past winners call the aggressive promotion a ‘scam’
  • Reality TV stars roped in to attract competition entries
  • Promised champagne, ‘VIP’ nights and free tickets never materialise
  • Blonde beauties in angel wings used to rope in large groups of men
  • Company creates fake social media profiles on Facebook, Tinder

The Aquila Angels are a group of beautiful women who promise you the time of your life. Free drinks, VIP passes to trendy London nightclubs, access to the stars of your favourite television shows, even bundles of cash and Apple laptops. They’ll seek you out through social media, messaging you on Facebook, Twitter and even through dating app Tinder to let you know that you didn’t quite win the big prize, but you’re a runner up, so bring all your friends along to the club anyway.

But, after The Kernel discovered a litany of blog posts and forum threads decrying the Aquila Angels as a “scam”, we decided to investigate.

Aquila London Events is one of London’s most high-profile club promoters. They specialise in parties held inside some of London’s trendiest clubs, XOYO, Pacha, Jalouse. Almost every one of their parties is graced by a Made In Chelsea or The Only Way Is Essex cast member.

The boyfriend of one of the Kardashians was meant to turn up once but apparently he cancelled at the last minute.

They’re the kind of parties where paparazzi queue up outside and the Daily Mail write up what went on inside.

Like many other club nights, Aquila uses social media to promote the events it holds. However, it seems that the company may be running a host of scam competitions designed to mislead people into promoting events to their friends.

Social media scams

One tactic used by Aquila is the classic “Share this photo and win everything in it”. The image below got shared several hundred times by people thinking that they win everything in the photo. A gallery of contest winners is sometimes uploaded, but then quickly removed. This blog calculated the total value of goods on offer in one giveaway to be around £3,000, close to the door takings for a standard club night.

1457522_393050077491550_1665061257_n

Once people had shared the image, they were asked to add a beautiful blonde woman as a Facebook friend to claim their prize. Every  time, they reportedly received the same message: You haven’t won, but you have won the runner-up prize. Some variations of the message included “[GENERIC MADE IN CHELSEA STAR] selected you as the runner-up prize winner!”

After informing people that they have won the prize, the impossibly pretty blonde woman informs them that they have VIP entry for a large number of their friends. Often the figure is as high as 30 or 40, although it has apparently dipped to 15.

One Facebook page called “Aquila’s ‘Like & Share’ comp is all one big con/scam.” dishes the alleged dirt on the scheme.

Everyone wins a ‘runner up prize’. You have to bring up to 40 friends. All booths are shared. The stripper doesn’t strip. CON!

The Kernel spoke to Matt Diggy, who had been taken in by an Aquila Events promotion:

“It’s one big scam. They’re telling people they won certain stuff then changing it at the last minute. All a scam. They say you won free entry, then when you’re there only you enter free. 15 other people are made to pay and they only give you one VIP pass when they promised 15.”

sdf

Matt Diggy is a mechanic in Royston, Hertfordshire

An internet search for Aquila Events reveals that the scheme has been going on for quite some time. A thread on the Giffgaff forum reveals several people sharing their experience of “winning” competitions held by Aquila. Forum user jessles86 posted what happened to her after winning a runner-up prize from Aquila:

“I went off to claim my ‘prize’ and to meet Andy from Made in Chelsea. It was a total joke, huge queues, totally rude ‘Aquila’ angels and outrageous prices after being promised champagne and a free VIP experience. It is a total scam to get people into the club which I did see coming, but I didn’t expect it to be so sleazy.

“Horrible experience! Made in Chelsea should be ashamed that they are associated with this type of scheme.”

And sure enough,  venues that used to hold Aquila parties have issued statements accusing Aquila of using the kind of questionable tactics on social media detailed above.

Proud Camden, a nightclub that used to hold Aquila London Events, issued this statement: “Proud Camden are no longer associated with Aquila Club nights at our venue or in any other way due to not being able to resolve issues with their fake competitions and customer service procedures.”

[midk]

The Internet Cons blog has unearthed evidence that Aquila creates fake Facebook accounts to ensnare people into attending its events through spamming links and scam competitions. Below you can see four different Facebook profiles, but altogether they use only two profile pictures.

The implication is that marketing staff at Aquila is reusing images of attractive girls to promote their events.

Aquila fake

Aquila fake 2

A Facebook profile belonging to Sophie Jennifer Cole, a marketing manager at Aquila, asked if any of her friends were selling Facebook accounts. The only comment on one post is by “Lucy Harper”, a seemingly fake profile used to inform competition “winners” that they only reached runner-up status.

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 18.27.14

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 01.14.38

[midk]

Tinder trickery

In recent months the promotions company has reportedly seized on a new tactic for finding people to come to their club nights: Tinder. Images posted by Aquila London representatives claim that five winners are selected on Tinder each day by one of the Aquila angels. Again, all evidence points to Aquila simply using the “runner-up” claim for as many people as possible.

45554_10151604169086612_468088611_n

Curious to see if Aquila could really pull off a scam using dating app Tinder, we took to Tinder using an edited profile that would look appealing to your standard club promoter.

"Melissa", my angelic Tinder match.

“Melissa”, my angelic Tinder match.

Sure enough, we soon came across “Melissa”, one of the Aquila angels – models paid to attend Aquila events in angel costumes. After right-swiping to show that we liked her, Tinder indicated that she had already right-swiped us. A few minutes after matching with Melissa, she sent a message.

2013-11-22 17.29.25

We sent a friend request to the Facebook account linked to in the Tinder message. It was the same “Lucy Harper” who had commented on the Aquila marketing manager’s Facebook post asking for more details about selling a Facebook account.

As soon as “Lucy” accepted our friend request, she sent this message.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 00.46.26

It looks like whoever was using the Lucy account made a slip-up here: Rebecca is actually an Aquila marketing representative who definitely does exist. We talked to her over email. She refused to comment on this story. Presumably it’s Rebecca who handles the angel team on Tinder.

All Lucy wanted was a list of 20 friends. She said that if we could not come up with 20, they could possibly work a deal out. So The Kernel had won VIP tickets to a night at trendy Shoreditch club XOYO, where we could meet Mario Falcone from The Only Way Is Essex.

A promotional image sent to me by Lucy Harper.

A promotional image sent to me by Lucy Harper.

We asked the Lucy Harper account a few simple questions about the XOYO nightclub and how the promotion worked. Our queries were ignored. When we hadn’t got back to her within four hours with a list of the friends we’d be bringing, she pestered us to start sending over the names.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 00.51.53

When The Kernel contacted Aquila London Events for comment, we were accused of “harassment” and threatened with “the strongest possible legal action”. The company also threatened to sue the author of this story personally.

Aquila did promise in the future to send competition winners “full terms and conditions or [sic] their prize, along with a direct phone number to contact our offices with any questions they might have”.

Tinder also declined to comment.

As we went to press, Aquila events continue to be promoted by the army of apparently fake blonde Facebook women. And customers continue to complain that they are promised one thing, but given something else.

So-called “bait and switch” promotions are illegal in the UK under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Successful criminal prosecution can result in an unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to two years.

Carl Silverstone, owner of Aquila London Events, could not be reached for comment.

Now read: Kernel readers speak out about the Aquila scam scandal.