A screenshot of a Facebook ad in which the company supposedly made the announcement was authentic. However, the ad was seemingly posted by an unauthorized user operating a scam and not a real message from the ride-hailing company.
During the Israel-Hamas war in mid-October 2023, users on X posted a screenshot that appeared to show Uber announcing in a Facebook ad that it had partnered with the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF), a U.S.-based charity that helps children travel for medical treatment.
— ~ (@TVKI__) October 18, 2023
The text in the apparent Facebook ad read:
In light of the recent violence that has left hundreds dead and thousands injured and homeless in Gaza, the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) has partnered with UBER and is mobilizing our resources with unwavering determination.
Our urgent humanitarian response aims to address the immediate needs of Gaza's population, providing vital medical care through volunteer missions and treatment, and essential supplies to those who have been tragically impacted by this [sic] devastating bombings. Through our dedicated humanitarian efforts, we will again bring comfort and relief to those in desperate need, fostering a sense of hope and solidarity in the face of adversity.
Please donate now to have an immediate impact on the lives of children in need.
The Facebook ad in which the company supposedly announced a partnership with the PCRF was authentic. It genuinely appeared as a post on Uber's official Facebook page. However, the ad was posted by someone or a group fraudulently, and it was not a real message from the company.
The ad included a link to a GoFundMe campaign, which has since been removed. We were unable to find an archived version of that fundraising page. However, the ad and the expired GoFundMe link were temporarily available for viewing in Meta's ad library, allowing us to piece together this report. Since then, the ad has been removed from the library.
Nonetheless, all evidence pointed to a scenario in which the ad's creator(s) was attempting to use the message and GoFundMe to scam people out of money.
In replies to users on X (formally Twitter), the company said of the Facebook ad, "This post was not authorized by Uber and was quickly removed. We believe it was the result of a compromised account at a marketing agency, and was posted with the intention of fraudulently receiving donations."
This post was not authorized by Uber and was quickly removed. We believe it was the result of a compromised account at a marketing agency, and was posted with the intention of fraudulently receiving donations.
— Uber Comms (@Uber_Comms) October 18, 2023
As of Oct. 19, Uber's Facebook profile showed at least 202 accounts serving as "page managers" spread across 20 countries, each with varying levels of access for controlling ads. In other words, if any of those accounts were compromised, an unauthorized person or group could gain some sort of access to Uber's profile.
Other big-name companies have also had their pages and ads improperly accessed by users. For example, in August 2022, an unauthorized user created scam ads on the official Dove Men+Care Facebook page that falsely claimed "Shark Tank" endorsed weight loss gummies.
About the PCRF
According to the PCRF's website, "concerned humanitarians" in the U.S. founded the organization in 1991 to provide "free medical care to thousands of injured and ill children yearly who lack local access to care within the local health care system."
The charity-rating website Charity Navigator labeled the PCRF a "four-star charity" with a high score of 97%.