A small country pub in the heart of the Hampshire countryside is embroiled in an international nightmare that could rob its customers of their savings.
The Oak website, in the small village of Smannell, near Andover, of just 1,330 residents, has been hijacked and ‘mirrored’ online by impostors 8,000 miles away in Sudan.
The fake page is identical to the 19th century pub page, even including Facebook customer reviews.
A small country pub in the heart of the Hampshire countryside, The Oak is embroiled in an international nightmare that could rob its customers of their savings
But hidden on the fake page is a link that directs people to a bank account linked to the African fraudster.
Today, The Oak warned its regulars that its Facebook page has been cloned.
In a statement, The Oak said, “ Please be aware that we don’t message customers unless they send us a message, so treat that like a scammer’s flag.
‘More importantly, we would never ask for payment methods online, so DO NOT provide bank details!’
The fake account began posting as The Oak on March 22.
Previously, it had been posted as a kebab takeaway in Rochdale and a hotel in Ireland.
Before that, it appears that it was used as a personal account, with comments on the posts suggesting that the user is based in Sudan.
After taking The Oak’s name, the account copied many of its Facebook posts.
But it changed one of the real pub’s regular prize draws so that anyone fooled by the page was led to a fake website and asked to hand over their personal information.
In a statement, The Oak said, “ Please be aware that we don’t message customers unless they send us a message, so treat that like a scammer’s flag. ”
The account also messaged followers of Oak’s real Facebook page asking them for personal and banking information.
The pub bosses added today: ‘Another sign is that the images on the account are not associated with our company and the name does not have a space between’ The ‘and’ Oak ‘.
Their site does not allow you to comment on their posts.
This is something we won’t block as we encourage people to provide feedback and tag their friends and family.
“We would appreciate if someone receives these messages, immediately reports them to Facebook, and blocks and deletes them and their messages.”
The Oak – the real one, that is – reopens on April 12 with patrons who can sit in the yard and in purpose-built pods.
It is not clear what led deceivers thousands of miles away to reach a small pub in a rural corner of southern England.
But in December, the pub was featured in a news report that went online and could be seen by anyone in the world looking online for a potential scam victim.
The story, in the local Andover advertiser, read: ‘A Smannell pub will become home to a new escape room if plans submitted to City Council are approved.
According to plans, two buildings will be built in The Oak’s beer garden to provide a backdrop for the game, in which players solve a series of puzzles to exit the room.
If approved, the escape room will be the only one of its kind in Andover. A previous escape room company, KLB Escape Room, closed in 2018 to look for larger premises, where the advertiser couldn’t find others currently operating in the city.
The company behind the proposal, Distance Games Limited, says the plans are a proof of concept to the experience, which will welcome groups of up to eight in a one-hour session.
The Oak – the real one, that is – reopens on April 12 with patrons who can sit in the yard and in purpose-built pods
They hope the plans will house about 200 players per week, saying it will “ draw new visitors to the area, ” as well as the use of The Oak.
However, Distance Games says it “does not expect a significant increase in traffic to the site” and will encourage car sharing among its customers.
They add that the building will be insulated from noise pollution to reduce potential nuisance.
The escape room will initially create three jobs, hoping to train three part-time employees to run the room. The company added that there is “the potential of a larger team when the business is proven and fully operational.”
They also aim to provide free access days for underprivileged children ‘as a gesture to the wider community’ once the business is fully established.
If the plans are approved, the company says they can quickly build the escape room, with two weeks to build the concrete base and the building itself.
When the advertiser reached out for a statement, the owners of The Oak, Red Oak Taverns, confirmed that an application had been made and declined to respond.