Belfast Telegraph

Alert over false Twitter accounts in names of Co Down £115m jackpot couple

EuroMillions winners Frances and Patrick Connolly
EuroMillions winners Frances and Patrick Connolly
A fake twitter account in the name of Patrick Connolly
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

The National Lottery has urged people to report any fake social media profiles claiming to belong to EuroMillions winners Frances and Patrick Connolly and offering people money.

The Co Down couple, who have been together for 30 years, were revealed on Friday as the lucky pair who scooped a £115m EuroMillions jackpot.

They said they celebrated the massive win with a hug and a cup of tea.

After choosing a Lucky Dip on New Year’s Day, the Moira couple landed the mammoth £114,969,775 in the first EuroMillons draw of 2019, which came just a week after the regular players won a more modest £2.60 in the draw.

Now Frances (52), originally from Glebe in Co Tyrone, and Patrick (54), originally from Belfast, are the fourth biggest UK winners, and the biggest from Northern Ireland.

The couple, who have three daughters — one 30 and twins of 24 — and three grandchildren,  vowed to use their winnings to “really make a difference for our family and friends”.

Frances’ sister Anne Floyd (51) told Sunday Life she couldn’t believe it when she heard about the win. She said: “I told her I hope you have the health to enjoy it. I would say I was more shocked than Frances because she doesn’t really get excited. She’s so level-headed. What she says and what you see, that’s her.”

But within days of their win, social media accounts appeared on Twitter claiming to be the couple and offering money to people.

Earlier, they had said they had drawn up a list of 50 people and organisations who will benefit from the jackpot.

One of the suspect profiles, that spells Mr Connolly’s surname wrong in the Twitter handle, has already amassed more than 40,000 followers. 

The National Lottery would not disclose whether Mr and Mrs Connolly had any active social media accounts, but warned people to be wary of anything that looked “too good to be true”.

It said: “The National Lottery, winners of The National Lottery and other lotteries are sometimes falsely imitated on the internet in a variety of ways — often to try to make people believe they are going to be entitled to money. We would urge people to remember that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

The official National Lottery Twitter account has also been replying to people flagging the accounts. In one reply it said: “We are aware that there have been some fake profiles set up. If you see any that you believe to be fake, please report them to Twitter.”

Another reply said: “We are trying to do what we can to stop this, but unfortunately we’re unable to stop people from setting up profiles on other platforms.”

Online safety and cyber safeguarding expert Wayne Denner urged people to be cautious and to look for red flags. He explained: “There are always a lot of clues when these sorts of things happen. People need to be very careful when they are using any social media platform.

“You should take five minutes and think about it, and do a little bit of research.

“You look at some of their engagement rate, some of their followers, do you know any of them? Are they following legitimate accounts? How long has their account been set up? Is there a profile picture? Is there a website address?

“All of these types of things are simple things that anybody

can do, which will always give a little more information about whether it’s a legitimate account or not.”

Mr Denner said that by engaging with such profiles you leave yourself open to scams.

“It’s so easy to manipulate the relationship on social media and it’s so easy to create and take images from other parts of the internet and pass them off as

legitimate,” he added. “It’s very easy to set up fake accounts online, and that’s the major problem.

“There isn’t a social media platform in the world that doesn’t have an issue with this.

“Platforms themselves have more work to do in relation to genuinely verifying the legitimacy of individuals using their platforms. But always remember: if it does sound too good to be true, then it often is in the online world.”

It’s not the first time local lottery winners have been mimicked by scammers. In 2014 police issued a warning after bogus emails claiming to be from Strabane jackpot winner Margaret Loughrey were used in an online fraud.

A spokesperson for Twitter said it does not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.

They added: “Impersonation is a violation of the Twitter Rules, and accounts which impersonate to confuse or deceive people may be permanently suspended.”

Belfast Telegraph


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