FYRE Festival – A Unique Cocktail of Phishing and Fraud

Sergei VolfFraud

Fyre Festival Dupes Thousands

How Fyre Festival Resembles Phishing

In 2017, an ambitious entrepreneur named Billy McFarland and musician Ja Rule brought together the biggest social media influencers for FYRE (pronounced fire) – a music event that never happened. However, it’s not only the music festival that sparked the rise and fall of Billy McFarland but also his ill-fated debit card Magnises.

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McFarland successfully duped thousands of Generation Y (millennials) into purchasing a dream vacation, a fake debit card and more for several years. The similarities to a phishing attempt are uncanny. If you’ve watched these documentaries, it is similar to how phishers use web-savvy skills to accomplish their goals. Unfortunately, McFarland’s attempt at fraud went too far, but there are ways to recoup from fraud.

Unlike fishing, Phishing is a cybercrime. Phishers target victims through various forms of communication. This includes e-mail, telephone, or text messages. The phishers then act like a reputable and legitimate company, person, or institution to gain this information. In most cases, phishers aim to get credit or banking card numbers, passwords, usernames, and other personally identifiable information (PII).

How Fyre Festival Resembles Phishing

While Billy McFarland did not necessarily phish, his actions resemble a hybrid of fraud and phishing. The Netflix and Hulu documentaries show how McFarland utilized social media to lure thousands of people to Fyre Festival. Through planned posts, a large group of social media influencers, celebrities, and great marketing videos, McFarland duped many. The people he fooled were not limited to social media users. He also fooled his employees, business partners, marketing agency Jerry Media, the Bahamas, and more. One important lesson from this documentary is to remain, skeptic, if something seems too good to be true

Fraud, Phishing and Billy McFarland

While Billy McFarland did not necessarily phish, his actions resemble a hybrid of fraud and phishing. The Netflix and Hulu documentaries show how McFarland utilized social media to lure thousands of people to Fyre Festival. Through planned posts, a large group of social media influencers, celebrities, and great marketing videos, McFarland duped many. The people he fooled were not limited to social media users. He also fooled his employees, business partners, marketing agency Jerry Media, the Bahamas, and more. One important lesson from this documentary is to remain, skeptic, if something seems too good to be true.

Importance of Skepticism in The Cyber World

Skepticism might have prevented thousands of people from losing their money. In the case of Fyre, the concert attendees, business partners, artist’s agents, and others might have prevented this from happening. This teaches us that if an offer from an unknown sender seems to good to be true, that you should research it. Before clicking on a link with a somewhat generic yet promising message, check who the sender is. This will help prevent you from being a victim of phishing.

The Financial Gain of Billy McFarland

Once the website was established, the social media posts were up, and tickets became available, there were still many missing aspects of the event. For one, the FYRE event organizers lacked space for the concert, they also lacked shelters for attendees to stay in. While you might assume that only wealthy millennials attended, it’s the opposite. However, this did not stop them from posting concert packages that ranged from $1,500 to $250,000. In addition to the cost of concert tickets, the concert attendees were lured into spending thousands of dollars on various upgrades, with some spending an additional $800,000. Promised upgrades included yachts, beach villas, meet and greets, and much more. He continued to lure people in by promoting musical acts that never planned to attend the festival in the first place.

Reality came crashing down days before the event in a not so metaphorical rain storm. Instead of spacious tents, yachts, and beachfront villas, the Frye attendees were treated to FEMA tents with water-soaked mattresses.

Phishing Attempts and A Cheese Sandwich

A phishing attempt and a cheese sandwich might not make sense together. However, when it regards the Fyre Festival, the two have more in common than you might think. Concert attendees were promised gourmet, catered food. Instead, they received a basic cheese sandwich and a salad with wilted lettuce.

If there were ever a phishing attempt that got to the point of a physical event, tricking not only celebrities but employees too, it would be FYRE. Some phishing attempts will tell the recipient of the message that they need to provide their full name, phone number, social security numbers and more. Once they enter this information, they’ll be able to have access to someone’s lottery fund, or other sought after perks. Instead of a sum of money, victims of a phishing attempt will be treated to a cheese sandwich and wilted lettuce instead. Meanwhile, their identity and money is stolen with very few ways to get it back.

How You Can Use Frye Festival To Educate Your Employees

One of the best defenses a business might have against a phishing attempt is its employees . It can pay off to train your employees to remain skeptics. This will help protect your business systems, your files, and your online accounts. One successful phishing attempt can cost you thousands of dollars, and in some cases put you out of business. While the Fyre Festival is not your typical type of phishing attempt, it is evidence of what could happen.

Are You a Victim of Phishing or Fraud?

At this time, refunds have only been issued to a handful of people who went to FYRE. These lucky people who got a refund were only able to do so because their credit card company gave them one. Even after the failed event, and while on probation, McFarland tried to start another venture to sell people tickets to exclusive events like the Met Gala or meet and greets with celebrities. Currently, McFarland is in prison for six years. If you’ve discovered that you are a victim of fraud, phishing, or malware, contact SecureForensics at 1-800-288-1407 for a free phone consultation.