Sports column: Beware of spam links to “free” football livestreams

Published 8:00 am Sunday, November 20, 2022

There is a plague spreading across the social media landscape. A pox upon our houses that is cluttering comments sections all over this great land.

No, not Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter and its unfolding implosion.

I’m talking about the scourge of spam links to fake streaming websites for high school sporting events.

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If you’re active at all on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, you’ve probably seen them. They’re normally found in the comments section of sports stories posted by media outlets, and might even look like they come from normal people.

The links claim to take you to a free livestream of whatever game the story is about, but in reality will melt down your computer faster than an ice cube on a summer sidewalk in Mississippi.

The links are a phishing scam that will ask you to sign up for livestreams that do not exist and surrender credit card or personal information in the process.

It can be tricky to identify these, and easy to absent-mindedly click on one of them. They’ll have flashy graphics, the name of the game you want, and maybe even appear to send you to a site resembling a legitimate boradcast outlet. One that popped up in The Vicksburg Post’s comments section on Friday had “FoxSport4HD” in the web address, which sounds similar to “Fox Sports.”

These scams have exploded in the past couple of years as more and more high school sports events are broadcast across various online platforms.

We delete them and block the users from The Post’s social media pages as we spot them, but they often appear and reappear faster than we can get them all down. Other outlets might not be as diligent.

The best way to deal with them, then, is to learn how to identify and avoid them, and to know which livestream outlets your favorite schools use.

A comment with bad grammar or an overabundance of graphics and emojis is one tell. Another is a generic, non-descriptive logo attached to the link.

If you’re scrolling on YouTube, look at the length of a video. Games are a couple of hours long. If the stream you’re looking for has a time of just a few minutes, it’s probably just a jingle and a logo on a loop and not an actual event. If you’re looking at a school’s actual channel, you should also see past events that are available, which is an indicator you’re in the right place.

Many schools in Mississippi — including Warren Central and Vicksburg High — have partnered with the subscription-based NFHS Network, while others run their own livestream operations on YouTube, Facebook Live, or their own websites. A good idea is to find the website of a specific school, or its Facebook page, and look for the correct links there.

Finally, when in doubt, error on the side of caution. If a link looks fishy, let it go. No game is worth the hassle of identity theft.

Besides, it’ll be in the paper tomorrow. Read all about it then.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 139-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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