In April 2017, social media rumors circulated that makeup and beauty chain Ulta Beauty was closing all stores following a buyout by competitor Sephora:
Many versions contained what appeared to be a link to an article about the sudden closures, (which sometimes appeared to be published by Curbed.com):
However, all links led to a page that was mocked up to look like a phony article from People magazine (hosted at “people.com-realsource.co”), with a claim that Sephora’s supposed buyout of Ulta would be beneficial for cosmetics shoppers:
Sephora Just Announced They Are Buying Out Ulta – Here’s How YOU Can Take Advantage
Sephora just announced that they will acquire the 950 Ulta Stores nationwide, the first major announcement regarding the buy out in the new year. The mega-retailer will double in size and has already begun the liquidation process of Ulta products. To date, 18 of the 950 Ulta stores have already closed. The remaining stores will close by the end of the year.
Some of you may be sad to see your local Ulta Beauty close down, but the rest of you are probably wondering:”Will this benefit me in any way?” The answer to that question is absolutely “YES!” On top of the final blowout sales that are going to be held at each of the closing locations, Ulta Beauty cosmetics department is offering FREE SAMPLES of their skin care products..
The scam advertisement then claimed that Ulta carries a secret product reserved only for celebrities and other high rollers, but now accessible to all due to the (nonexistent) liquidation of their products thanks to the (nonexistent) buyout:
Until recently, Ulta Beauty has always kept an amazing wrinkle secret called Vlamorous Cream reserved for their high paying celebrity clients. They reported that in order to clear the products off the shelves, they needed to give out free samples for everyone to try. As a result, a few weeks ago they shared the simple solution previously only shared with celeb clients to everyone!
Visitors to the fake People site were greeted by a landing page that resembles the magazine’s digital counterpart, complete with invitations to subscribe and a portal to other magazine titles. Clicking the links to other magazines leads to more scam sales pages:
Attempts to close the page causes a window to pop up with information about a “free trial” with dwindling supplies. The page is not published by People, it does not report real news, and it serves only to convert traffic into sales for a skincare product it falsely claims was a long-kept secret at Ulta.