Facebook Scams – You won’t believe what happened next

 In News and Events, Tech Tuesday

This week we all received yet another reminder that it is important to stay alert and keep our wits about us online.

A Facebook scam targeting Qantas, offering free first class tickets for people who shared a link within a certain number of Facebook Groups to which they belonged re-emerged after first appearing back at the beginning of 2014, then again in early 2015 – at which point it is estimated it fooled over 100,000 people.

So what’s in it for the scammers. These scams rarely ask for any personal information and certainly not money. Typically, this practice is known as “Like Farming”. At best, these pages will clutter up yours and your friend’s new feeds with information about what you “like”.  At worst though, these pages are gathering personal information from your profile and potentially even downloading malware to your PC (although that will normally require a step further than just “liking” something). Facebook places high value on very popular pages, so the more viral these pages go, the more they will appear on news feeds, and hence, the more viral they will go… Once the number of “likes” reaches critical mass, the originating page has a number of tactics at its disposal. Maybe it just stay’s put, and continues to collect marketing related information from unsuspecting users, may it is replaced with something more malicious, so that even though it was fine the first time you visited it, that is no longer the case. Highly “liked” sites can also fetch a good price on the black market for web pages and forums.

To start a Facebook Group or even Fan Page on Facebook is exceedingly simple – necessarily so because that’s the nature of the beast, – connect, share, be social.  You don’t need to prove much. You do need a valid email account, and to register a Facebook Place for check-in etc, there is some rudimentary checks in place, but for a short term, viral scam like we commonly see, targeting people who aren’t looking that closely it’s not hard to grab a few graphics,  find a few images and set up a new Facebook page. In this case, the page was called “Qantas Airlines”, not “Qantas”.  This low barrier to entry, means the payoff doesn’t have to be huge, it just needs to be there, and clearly, it is.

Facebook will always be vigilant and help companies rid the site of fake pages. Sites can be authenticated by Facebook and will receive one of two small ticks beside their name, however this is not really common knowledge yet and certainly won’t save all of the billion or so Facebook users worldwide.

qantas

Qantas’ Verified Brand

 

This blue tick on the Qantas page means Facebook has confirmed that this is the authentic Page for this brand. A gray tick means Facebook has verified this page belongs to the business or organisation that it purports to.

 

Constructor Facebook Banner

Constructor’s Verified Facebook Page

 

On the surface it appears as though it  could be easy to add to a fake banner image, but the embedded, “tool tip” style message, which appears as you hover your mouse over the image is not so straight forward. This tick also appears after the site’s name, in any comments it posts – something which also cannot be faked. Your page can be verified in literally less than 2 minutes. Assuming of course you are the admin,

So one good tip is to watch for the “Facebook Verified Page” tick when assessing such offers in the future.

The other great tip – the one that no scammer in the world can beat is, “if it’s too good to be true, then it’s not!”. Remember, there are 1.2 billion Facebook users. Companies don’t just give stuff away to random people – especially a billion of them. To loyal customers maybe, but certainly not based on a few quick clicks, a like here or a share there. So to be safe, if you assume every free offer you see on Facebook is fake, you’ll be right just about every time.

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