“We’re giving these away because they have been unsealed”. “Share and Like to enter!”. “Comment to get a free sample”.
These are but a few phrases often used in one of the most prolific ruses on Facebook, the fake competition/giveaway scam.
Almost every active Facebook user has – we imagine – at some point come across either a Facebook Page, Event or post purporting to offer a free product or service of some sort.
And more often than not, your chance of winning is dependent on you first joining an event, liking a page, or sharing & commenting on a post. For instance, check out the example below claiming to offer free iPhone 5’s.
Popular brands like Apple, Tesco, Walmart, Argos, Samsung, Dell, Disney and Microsoft are often exploited by this type of scam, which uses people’s gullibility to help spread itself across Facebook, being passed along by one friend to another.
These cons will typically require users perform certain steps in order to “win” (or become eligible to win.) These steps will often include some of the below…
– sharing/commenting/liking a post
– visiting a webpage and sharing it on your Facebook wall
– joining a Facebook group, Page or event
– installing a Facebook app
The ultimate goal behind the scams will vary depending on what one you happen to encounter. Often they exist to drive up Likes and followers for like-farming pages, which can then be used to initiate other, more sinister scams at a later date.
Alternatively (or simultaneously) they exist to drive traffic to external webpages and into the online unknown, where the lure of completing surveys and questionnaires to “proceed” or to “verify their age” will harvest your personal information and result in you becoming a victim of spamming. In worst case scenarios you may the victims of hefty SMS subscription plans or even worse, identity theft.
Take a look at the example above, which actually has nothing to do with Apple, and is used to lure visitors into completing spammy surveys via the link on step 4. This page is designed to lure people into handing over personal information, as well as accruing fans for the page (over 56K at the time we took this screenshot) which can then be targeted for further scams at a later date.
To help you avoid these scams make sure you understand the below advice –
1. Branded companies such as Dell or Apple will run promotions via their official websites and social media channels. Therefore any promotion that is being run from a third party website or alternative Facebook Page should not be trusted. Official Facebook pages are marked with a little blue tick and will typically have an extremely large following. (e.g. Dell has 7.5 million, which is pretty average.)
2. If you see a post promoting a contest, always to go the Page that posted the post and check if they are the official outlet for the company holding the contest. You can usually determine this using the tip above, or another way is to go to the official website and find their Facebook link on their site which will take you to the official page. Easy! (or you could probably even type the company name and “Facebook Page” into Google!)
3. Never ever trust promotional contests that condition entry on giving away your personal information to third party websites. These rewards programs are spammy and harvest a user’s information in order to spam them with useless marketing “deals” and “offers”. Additionally never give out your phone number either as you’ll likely be entered into expensive SMS subscription plans.
4. Ask yourself these questions –
a. Is it an official page from a trustworthy organisation? No means probably a scam.
b. Has it only recently been created? Yes means its certainly a scam.
c. Do the vast majority of posts on the Page asking you to Like and Share images, or to Like the Page? Yes means its certainly a scam.
Remember that having reliable security software installed can block some of these threats.
Also remember that your personal information is valuable to spammers. Tricking a user into thinking they will receive some freebie is an easy opportunity for a spammer to lure victims into handing over that valuable information.
So, bottom line, always think twice before complying with the demands of an offer that looks too good to be true. Especially if it is on Facebook!