They start off innocently enough: “Like and share!”
But if you’re not careful, you might just be helping a scammer launch his money-making schemes far and wide.
The practice is called “like-farming”. Basically after attracting thousands of likes with ridiculously tempting offers (like an iPhone, a mobile home, or cruise ship tickets), the scammer can scrub out all the contest content. He is then at liberty to add various scams (think phishing, identity theft, malware installation) while letting his “fan base” float him to the top of people’s Facebook feeds. Pages that have collected thousands of likes can even be sold on the black market for other scammers to use.
Just this year, a car “giveaway” duped scores of Facebook users.
Mini Cooper (Nov 2016)
Image belongs to Cardidesign
Dupe-meter: >6,700 shares
Users who clicked on the hyperlink for their website instead met an “antivirus” screen asking for their mobile number, with tiny font underneath that read: “$4.28 w/GST per sms … This is a Mobile Content Subscription service until you quit. Charge applied to mobile phone bill… If you do not send STOP COOL… the service will be renewed automatically.”
Not cool (and not cheap).
Audi R8 (2014)
Image belongs to Overlaet
Duper-meter: >200,000 shares
This sneaky contest included links to videos – no problem there – but these were hosted on sites running codes that allowed for clickjacking (hiding a hyperlink behind clickable content), which means users can click on camouflaged commercials.
Of course the way to combat these scams is to raise awareness (look out for facebook’s blue verified identity ticks, reverse-Google image search suspicious contest photos, avoid games/quizzes that ask for too much personal information – you know the basics)
Another effective way is to get the message out through comedy. And these ones you can share.
WIN Optimus Prime
Satire-meter: 43 shares
Mocking the exorbitant giveaway with a car contest straight out of science-fiction, this spoof promised two lucky users would win “amazing alien life forms (that) transform into fully autonomous robots”. Don’t forget to visit their website: http://wereyoubornyesterday/Cybertron
WIN a Fighter Jet
Satire-meter: >9,800 shares
Five Eurofighter Typhoons are being given away on Facebook … because “they are last year’s model and were accidentally unwrapped and left in a carpark … where they got a bit wet”. That explains it.
Users had a ball with this idea, totalling up to more than 3,000 comments.
Some were modest:
Others got creative with their preferred colours:
While others asked practical questions like:
The cherry on top was the guy who placed a bait of his own:
Walked into that one. Well played sir.
But seriously, like candy from strangers, and friendships with Nigerian princes, giveaways that seem too good to be true probably aren’t. Not all the time, but often enough.
If you have already shared a scam post, here are some quick steps to redemption:
- Delete the post from your wall
- Unlike the original
- Delete your comments there
- Unlike the page, report it as spam
- And tell your friends who’ve shared it
Play it cool (and smart), and you’ll avoid lining some scammer’s pocket at your friends’ – and your own – expense.