How to spot a Facebook scam

Facebook is a great way to keep touch with friends and family, and for many small businesses to raise awareness of their product or attract new customers. But for every one of those genuine business-related quotes, there are many more scams waiting for you to click 'like'.

'Special offers'

The problem:

Clicking onto a site from a promotional offer on Facebook can lead to your computer being affected by a virus or malware, or taking liberties with your personal information and friend list. You may also be required to click through a link to a site that then charges your mobile for services you did not want or did not know you would be charged for. 

 

How to spot a scam:

As the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Companies often use major brand names such as Disney to promote fake prizes and giveaways - their Facebook page name will be something very similar to the brand they are claiming to be from but will be slightly different in some way. Always check if the page name relates to the genuine company.

If you click onto a page to enter a 'competition' to win one of these fabulous prizes, check to see when the page was set up and whether there are many other posts on the page. A genuine page from a major brand will have countless posts, a small fraction of which might be promotions (and never for major, expensive giveaways). Often one-off prize 'giveaway' pages will have been set up in the previous week - take a look at the date of the oldest post. 

 

Other tell-tale signs of a scam include:

• Comments on the promotion by fake Facebook users - if you click on their names they will not link to their own pages. Often only their first name appears.
• Poor spelling or grammar
• A requirement that you provide access to personal information before you can click onto 'like' or enter a comment.

 

'Like to see what happens next'

The problem:

Another type of scam involves tempting you to click on to a link or page, not in the hope of gaining a prize but out of morbid curiosity, outrage or interest. Commonly taglines will say things like 'check this out before it gets banned!' or 'see the last moments of this rollercoaster before it crashes'. Scammers know that many people can't resist this kind of thing and use lures like these to persuade people to 'like' their page. These pages can introduce malware or viruses or are just a phishing expedition aimed at driving you to a site (for which the scammer is paid per 'like').

 

How to spot a scam:

If the content sounds like something racy, salacious or horrifying, chances are it isn't real. Run the title through your search engine first. Chances are that fakes will have been reported by other users and can be found out easily enough.

If you do click on the page, you will be asked for extra information (always personal) to 'verify' something - usually to 'verify that you are human' (as opposed to a computer). This gives the impression that the site is trying to protect itself, when in fact it is trying to glean as much information about you as possible. 

Any page that requires you to take a survey (i.e. give information) or install anything to your computer should make you get out of there straightaway. 

 

Finally...

Keep your anti-virus and malware protection up to date and set your Facebook privacy settings carefully (and check them regularly).