Posts share false claim about crowds flocking to buy air conditioners at Malaysian shopping centre

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Pictures of a long queue and a man appearing to receive medical attention have been shared hundreds of times in Facebook posts that claim they show people at the IOI City Mall in Malaysia's Selangor state lining up to take advantage of a sale on air conditioners. The posts claim people can skip the long lines by visiting a website instead where they can provide personal information. The claims are false. IOI City Mall told AFP that no such event had taken place on its premises. The queue photo was shot at a mall in Vietnam in 2015, and the photo of the man was taken at a football ticket sale event in Indonesia in 2018.

The pictures were shared on Facebook here by a Malaysia-based user on September 26, 2022.

The pictures show a queue inside a shopping centre that appears to go around a banner of a portable air conditioner; a man being helped by medical personnel; and a stock image of a portable air conditioner -- the same model displayed in the first picture.

The Facebook post's Malaysian-language caption reads in part: "Rescue teams had to save hundreds of people from IOI City Mall. As thousands of people lined up to buy this high-tech Japanese air conditioner, the lack of oxygen caused many to pass out."

The IOI City Mall is located in the Malaysian state of Selangor, on the outskirts of the country's capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The post says there was a 50 percent discount on "HAIKAKIDO" brand air conditioners, as the brand had just opened its first branch in the shopping centre. It goes on to advertise the product.

It also states that people can avoid long queues by ordering from a website, which requires visitors to provide their name, address and telephone number.

Screenshot of the misleading post, captured on October 7, 2022

The same images were uploaded in similar posts here, here and here, which have been shared more than 70 times.

Other posts making a similar claim but advertising a different air conditioner brand called "YOSHIBA" have been shared more than 230 times after they appeared on Facebook here, here and here.

All the posts also include links to websites where people can supposedly order the air conditioner.

The claims, however, are false.

'No such event or incident'

A spokesperson for the IOI City Mall told AFP the purported incident in the social media posts did not happen on its premises.

They said "no such events nor incidents took place in the mall", when asked about any "huge crowds" and the need for "rescue teams".

A search of the shopping centre's directory and website did not find any tenants that go by either the brand name "HAIKAKIDO" or "YOSHIBA".

The shopping centre's spokesperson said the post had been reported to Facebook. A "Scam Alert" was also posted on their Facebook page here on October 7, 2022, advising customers to not respond to the post.

First photo

A reverse image search of the first picture led to this post, posted on the verified Facebook page of Crescent Mall in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, on September 5, 2015.

The English caption of Crescent Mall's post reads: "Midnight Sale atmosphere is all around Crescent Mall. Have you bought any favorite items yet? Don't forget to post your photos with hashtag #CrescentMall #ILoveMidnightSale to share your wonderful shopping experience at Crescent Mall."

The photo corresponds to the one used in the misleading posts, which has apparently been altered to add an image of the portable air conditioner.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the first photo in the misleading photo (left) and the genuine photo from Crescent Mall (right), with the altered part marked by AFP:

Screenshot comparison of the first photo in the misleading photo (left) and the genuine photo from Crescent Mall (right)

The same photo was uploaded on the shopping centre's website here, along with other photos during its "Crescent Mall Midnight Sale", which took place on September 5, 2015.

The photo was also previously used alongside a false claim that it shows a queue at a shopping centre in Bangkok, which AFP debunked here.

Second photo

A reverse image search of the second picture led to this article, published by Indonesian news outlet Detikcom on August 11, 2018.

The article's Indonesian-language headline translates as: "Overcrowding until some pass out for the U-16 National Team at the AFF U-16 Cup Final".

It refers to the sale of tickets for the Asean Footbal Federation (AFF) Cup final match between Thailand's and Indonesia's under-16 teams, which took place later that evening.

The photo, which has a watermark in its lower-right corner that reads "detikcom", was also later used in a different Detikcom article here, on September 23, 2018, about the difference between fainting due to fatigue and due to stroke.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the second photo in the misleading post (left) and the genuine photo from Detikcom (right):

Screenshot comparison of the second photo in the misleading post (left) and the genuine photo from Detikcom (right)

Air-con brands

The photos of air conditioners used in the misleading posts correspond with images of air-conditioners sold under brands QST and Lincox.

AFP was unable to find any air conditioner makers with the brand names "HAIKAKIDO" or "YOSHIBA".

Online offers and promotions such as this are often used by scammers to obtain people's personal information.

AFP has previously debunked similar "offers" for free KFC coupons, donuts, cash handouts, gasoline gift cards and internet data.