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How To Spot A Facebook Scam

Keep your Facebook account safe and secure by watching for these four common tactics used by scammers.

Facebook Home Invasion
Facebook Home Invasion
(click image for slideshow)
You've seen it before: A Facebook friend posts a link to a video that promises, "OMG! You won't believe what happened!" or an update warning you that Facebook will start charging users. You know that some posts are scams, but others seem legitimate. How do you know whether to click?

Graham Cluley, an independent security expert and former consultant at security firm Sophos, says that the rise of social networks has made it easy for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting users.

"Before social networking, you had to consciously forward an email with malicious content to members of your address book," Cluley said. "But now with Facebook, it's just too easy to pass something along. You can click a link, 'like' a post or reshare something without thinking about the consequences. Before you know it, you've contributed to the problem and worsened the signal-to-noise ratio on the social network."

[ Android user? Watch out for scam apps. Read Scam Android Apps Plague Google Play. ]

Spotting Facebook scams can be easy if you know what to look for. Here are four common characteristics found in malicious posts, plus tips for how you can ensure you don't fall prey.

1. The Content Is Salacious

If a questionable post includes a level of shock, horror or salaciousness, be wary, Cluley said. You'll often find these types of posts promising a peek into celebrity sex tape or a video of something gruesome.

This type of content can disguise a clickjacking attempt, malware or phishing scheme. Pay particular attention to the language used and whether it's enticing you to click or take immediate action, Cluely said.

One recent scam preyed on actor Emma Watson, who starred as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies. The Facebook post promises a clip of the actor in a leaked sex tape, and requests that you enter your information for "age verification," in addition to copying and pasting a script into your browser's address bar.

2. It Requires Extra Steps To View

Survey scams, which are popular on Facebook, ask you to complete a questionnaire in order to receive a prize, such as an iPad, or view a video, for example. These scammers make money by driving traffic to particular sites, Cluley says.

One recent example preyed on Costco customers. A widely circulated post read, "Claim your Free $500 Costco Voucher Now. Only a few left." Clicking on the post asked you to share the "offer," post something nice about Costco and like a Facebook page.

But Costco wasn't behind the bogus Facebook page -- scammers were, hoping to direct you to websites hosting surveys, earning them commission.

"Look at the content of the message and ask, 'What am I going to get from this?'" Cluley said. "If it asks you to install software or take a survey or reshare a message before you've seen what you expect to see, that's when an alarm bell should ring."

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
7/5/2014 | 7:56:41 AM
Facebook scams trigger curiosity
Thanks, Kristin. 

Some of these things sometimes may feel they are obvious, especially if you are involved in technology. Yet, at the time of being on Facebook taking a break from whatever you are working on, which is what I do, you simply forget about your inner security alert. Well, unless you see on FB something that it's particularly annoying and, therefore, avoid it, as I mentioned before commenting on your other post.

These scams make you also think of human curiosity. Are humans so curious that they will always fall into these traps?

It's great you bring these reminders to our attention. :)

-Susan
classicalduck
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classicalduck,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/1/2013 | 11:58:52 PM
re: How To Spot A Facebook Scam
5. It demands that you forward it to everyone you know.
6. All or parts of it are in ALL CAPS.
7. It contains statistical information without valid citations. If you're going to make the (valid) case that American military service people on duty in Afghanistan are underpaid, don't lie about the pensions of presidents and members of Congress in order to exaggerate the claims.
8. It's a chunk of text which has been rendered into a graphic, and therefore not easily editable. (Yes, anybody who can 'shop can change it, but most of these things try to get you to act without thinking, and believe it or not, 'shopping requires thinking.)
9. It contains spelling and/or grammatical errors.
10. It contains political "revelations" that would be all over the news services ... if they were real. I cheerfully admit that my politics are moderate-to-liberal, but I see various of my friends falling for made-up crap all over the political spectrum, including conservatives, liberals, libertarians, etc.
When I see any of the above, I do my best to make the supreme effort to ignore them. They will cost me more in the time required to read them than even any entertainment value I might get from them.
And anybody, even a good friend, who repeats that vile post which twists the story of a Righteous Gentile who saved Jews from the Holocaust into an excuse for bashing politicians that the anonymous original author doesn't like, gets flamed. YOU DON'T DO THAT AROUND ME AND GET AWAY WITH IT. (Sorry for the all caps!)
Number 6
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Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
7/30/2013 | 8:12:08 PM
re: How To Spot A Facebook Scam
5. A Headline that Draws You In

Watch out for too-tempting-to-resist status updates like "How to Hack a Porsche" and "How To Spot A Facebook Scam" that can lead you to questionable websites. :)
OtherJimDonahue
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OtherJimDonahue,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2013 | 6:42:24 PM
re: How To Spot A Facebook Scam
I know an older person who's fallen for more than one online scam--including losing some money from a bank account. Recently, someone seems to have stolen her ID for a Twitter account. I tried to help with the Twitter situation, but hit a brick wall.

It's a crazy world out there.

Jim Donahue
Managing Editor
InformationWeek
Cara Latham
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Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2013 | 6:16:16 PM
re: How To Spot A Facebook Scam
Haha! This is a very good point! I will let you know if I succumb to one now that I've made the claim.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2013 | 5:49:10 PM
re: How To Spot A Facebook Scam
I'm always wary of claiming I never fall for these scams, figuring that would one would come along and snag me as soon as I boasted about being immune.
Cara Latham
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Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2013 | 4:13:16 PM
re: How To Spot A Facebook Scam
I never understood why people fall for some of these scams. I ignore everything that either seems too good to be true, requires any effort on my part, does not look authentic, or seems malicious (sexual content). And in the Costco case, if I really wanted to get a Costco voucher, I'd have called up the store and asked whether it was legitimate. I am sure they would be able to provide customers with any info on legitimate campaigns.
Google in the Enterprise Survey
Google in the Enterprise Survey
There's no doubt Google has made headway into businesses: Just 28 percent discourage or ban use of its productivity ­products, and 69 percent cite Google Apps' good or excellent ­mobility. But progress could still stall: 59 percent of nonusers ­distrust the security of Google's cloud. Its data privacy is an open question, and 37 percent worry about integration.
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