In the past, we wrote about then-current Facebook scams to watch out for, and Angela has covered fake Facebook pages to avoid. It’s great to know about these problems, but unfortunately, nobody can predict the future and these articles can’t be published until a big scam happens.
Facebook is a huge target for the new generation of con artists, because there’s such a large user base who can be scammed without any face-to-face contact. Although you’ve taken precautions to secure your privacy on Facebook with our unofficial guide, falling for a trick is still possible, and the results can end in tears. Even if you never encounter a scam that tries to steal money, by avoiding these plagues you’ll save at least time and headaches. Let’s take an ounce of prevention and diagnose how to spot and avoid these scams.
Shady Or Unsolicited Messages
Messages are a great feature of Facebook, allowing an easy place to chat with friends whose phone numbers you may not have. Facebook has filtering in place to attempt to keep messages away from people you don’t know, but sometimes it doesn’t work too well.
The “other” folder is reserved for this. You might get the occasional message asking you to promote some lame band or website, which are harmless.
But if you get one that looks like this, report is as spam and delete it immediately. Don’t even bother with a reply.
This one is a classic Nigerian Scam – an obvious attempt at stealing your personal information. But they won’t all look like this; some may come from a person with a real-looking name and profile picture. If you’ve never heard of the person, disregard the message; someone who really needs to get in contact with you will find another way.
Expensive Free Stuff
Let’s make something clear, once and for all. Aside from legitimate giveaways on sites you know to be trustworthy (like MakeUseOf Giveaways), you will never receive expensive items for free online. When you see a new Facebook picture advertising a site selling iPads for $2, it’s a fraud.
In this real example, a page promises a free iPad – once you like and share a guy’s website page and refer a paying customer. Really, that’s anything but free. So, what this boils down to is someone’s attempt to promote his business. What’s sad is that people leave personal comments on this page, sharing stories about their ill relatives and how an iPad could change their lives. It’s sickening.
Another common source of fakes is a high-profile person supposedly giving away loads of cash. One that happens often is Bill Gates giving away a billion dollars – all you have to do is like and share a picture! For some reason, though, this picture looks like a police shot of stolen money. Further, why would Bill Gates have pictures of cash from a country other than the USA?
Think about this logically for a moment. First, if Bill Gates were to give away any significant amount of money, he wouldn’t do it through Facebook. Second, can you imagine how difficult it would be to track every single person that likes and shares one photo? Third, why would there be a new giveaway every other week? Keep in mind that any old loser can make a page with a Google Image search picture of Bill Gates.
Not enough people ask these questions, evidently, because here’s some of the comments on one of these Bill Gates giveaways:
Bill Gates may be better than Batman, but he will never give away money to a random citizen of Facebook. You’re never going to receive free tickets to concerts, either. Do you really think that someone who doesn’t know how to use apostrophes correctly is going to be giving away expensive tickets? How convenient that the page always needs more likes and shares to give out the goods.
If it’s not immediately obvious whether a contest is legitimate or not, you can use a couple of methods to find out. Before you do, however, check for the blue check mark on the Facebook page. That’s the Verified symbol, and it shows that you’re viewing the true page for a company. Anybody could create a page called Disney Fans! that’s just fan-made – even if it has thousands of “likes,” it isn’t guaranteed to be legit.
If you’re still not sure, use these steps. First, check how old the page is. If it was made last week and is promising a brand new car, it’s crap. Unsurprisingly, the Bill Gates page was created on July 11, 2014, a bit over two weeks before this article’s writing. Just because a page is older doesn’t mean it’s okay, however.
The One Direction “Ticket’s” [sic] page was put up in April of 2012, but do you really think they’ve handed out freebies for more than two years? Unfortunately, it’s the opposite: they’ve been fooling people and wasting their time for that long. Evidently, Sandy Akok has been looking for tickets for those two years, spouting off the same story, and still hasn’t gotten any.
Second, look for Terms and Conditions for the contest. Most legitimate sites and promotions have a set of terms that lays out how long the giveaway lasts, how you’ll receive your prize, various disclaimers, and region info. These scams have none of that; instead they promise arbitrary amounts of goods with no set date. There are other telling signs besides these, but 99% of scams you come across can be busted with this information.
Low Quality Or Sexual Images
Images are extremely important in today’s online society, since people have such short attention spans. If you want people to read your article, a great header image is important. A YouTube video with a generic thumbnail likely won’t take off. Without a doubt, images grab attention. If you need proof, just look:
These “fail” compilation videos get millions of views, and it’s largely because their thumbnails are typically scantily-clad women. It’s a cheap trick to get people to click on them, and it clearly works. Don’t fall for the same ruse and click on the sexy thumbnail someone sends you in an image, or the ridiculous model-esque profile picture of someone who sends you a Facebook message. It’s all the same thing: trash.
In the same vein, if a company is having a legitimate giveaway they’ll take the time to create an attractive image to share. So when you see junk like this posted twenty times in one week, with random friends tagged in it:
Ignore it, for your own good. If it looks like a kindergartner slapped it together in Microsoft Paint it isn’t for real.
Tugs At Your Curiosity
When you’re told that somebody took a picture of you and it’s making its rounds to your friends, what’s your first instinct? To check it out for yourself, of course. Scammers prey on this trait to get you to click their garbage, often on Twitter.
Once you click that link, a number of things could happen; you could be taken to a fake sign-in page to hand over your credentials to a spammer, who would then send this junk to your followers. At best, you’ll be sent to a cheesy site where you’ll hear about a mother who made $50 million in one month working from home. Any link that starts with “You have to see…” or “CLICK HERE…” is better left alone.
Playing On Your Emotions
Tragedies happen, and when they do it’s a great thing to pitch and in and donate. When you do, however, be sure that you’re actually donating to a worthy cause and not someone wanting to make a quick buck off others’ generosity.
As one example of shady usage of money, take a look at this photo posted by Britain First, a political organization.
The organization asks for likes, shares and donations to help stop animal abuse, but upon closer examination, they made no effort to separate their general donations from the ones to stop abuse. So, they show emotional pictures, ask for money to help out, and when people send money thinking they’re doing good, they’re actually donating to an institution who has no intention whatsoever of helping with the problem.
The point here isn’t about politics or this organization in particular, but rather that people blindly donate. If you want to do good with your money, be sure it’s going to a reputable source. Giving through a cause you see on Facebook simply isn’t a smart move.
Why Do People Do This?
The reason that people publish these scams is the reason for a lot of evil in this world: money. if you’re lucky, falling for any of the above issues will only lead to an annoyance and maybe spamming your friends’ pages. Some people just want to increase their “like” count or promote their stupid website.
Some take it further, though. If they’re not out for just “likes,” they’re trying to get money, and they’ll do it in any way possible. Some want you to download a rogue application, perhaps disguised as a game, to hold your system for ransom or to use your computer as a zombie. We’ve covered what to do if you’re infected by malware, so if you’ve fallen for any of the above you should follow those steps to be sure your computer and financial information is safe.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen for a trick; Angela almost did and has told the tale so that you can learn from her experience. If you’re looking for even more advice on this topic, check out some older, but still relevant, general tips to avoid scams on Facebook.
Finally, snopes.com, one of the definitive online resources for debunking rumors, has sections dedicated to Facebook rumors, computer-related hoaxes, and scams. If you see something going around and aren’t sure if it’s for real, be sure to check snopes and let your friends know so they don’t spread it.
Have you ever fallen for a social media scam? How do you spot fakes? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!
Image Credit: Internet Scam via Shutterstock