Offers that appear harmless can actually cause serious damage. Here is how to spot them.
Every so often you probably notice a post appears in your Facebook feed offering some amazing deal, or discount. Recently, with Apple’s release of the iPhone 7, the focus of many such posts likely were for you, as they were for me, on giveaways of that new, highly-sought-after device; multiple posts telling me to “Win an iPhone 7 by liking this picture” and to “Click this link to enter to win a new iPhone 7” appeared on my feed. While I have previously discussed ways to avoid falling prey to scams on Facebook in general, the current crop of scams are finding many victims, and deserve a dedicated piece. Sometimes, when people see free giveaways, they figure “what do I have to lose?” Often, however, they are terribly wrong. Here is what you need to know.
Offers for free physical items in return for viewing or Liking posts are almost always scams – typically one of three types:
1. Malware distribution scams
If you are asked to click a link you may be directed to a website that attempts to install malware on your computer. This could lead to all of your data being stolen, your having to pay a ransom to access your own data which the malware encrypts, thieves stealing money from your bank accounts, or your identity being stolen. Criminals may even hijack your social media profiles when you login from that computer – they may make posts that look like they came from you, or send direct messages to your friends in order to victimize them as well.
2. Phishing sites
If you click a link you may be directed to some site that requires a login “Please confirm your Facebook login to continue” – which seems somewhat innocuous when coming from Facebook – but is not. Criminals may gain access to any account to which you give them the password. Of course, using multi-factor authentication and properly securing your social media accounts can help, but do not rely on second factors to keep you safe. For information on how to secure your social media account, please see the article: How to Be Better at Social Media Than Mark Zuckerberg.
3. Like farming
If you are asked to Like a page, you may be helping a dishonest person establish a Facebook page with many Likes. Scammers use phony offers in order to solicit large numbers of Likes for a page, and, then, once a large number of Likes have been amassed, change the page to look like a legitimate informational page, and sell the page to people wishing to buy pages with large numbers of followers. Like farming is obviously prohibited by Facebook – but, as is normally the case, scammers do not follow rules. It should be noted that Liking pictures that you actually like is not the topic of this article (even though such photos might also be posted by scammers for Like farming).
So, to stay safe, here are six ways to tell when an offer is illegitimate:
(Please keep in mind that none of these rules operates on its own or is absolute, but that applying these concepts together should help you identify when an “offer post” is likely from a scammer. As always, please feel free to discuss these suggestions with me online. I’m @JosephSteinberg on Twitter.)