Spammy, fake Facebook competitions are as prevalent as ever, with many falling for them “just in case”. We explain how they work, how they’re dangerous and how engaging with them, you’re putting your OWN friends at risk as well.
Here’s a question that we’re guessing you will, when asked, respond to in the affirmative.
Have you ever seen a post on Facebook purporting to give something away, just as soon as you like, share or comment on it?
You probably have. Fake Facebook competitions are one of the most encountered types of spam you’ll likely encounter on the site, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
How they work
The ruse is incredibly simple. A spammer sets up a fake Facebook page (or event, in some cases) and posts as the page, much in the same way our Facebook page posts our latest or trending articles.
Unlike our posts, however, the spammers author posts purporting to give away various freebies. Free cars, free supermarket tickets, free Apple merchandise, free Disney Land tickets, free latest must-have gadget. It doesn’t matter, because in reality there is nothing really on offer .
To quality to win? Share, like and comment on the post. Or all of the above. And that in turn helps spread the post across Facebook, from friend to friend. Many of these posts accumulate hundreds of thousands of shares, and as a result of that, the page (or event) that authored the post attracts plenty of followers who “like” the page, meaning future posts will appear in those followers newsfeeds.
This means that, amongst other things, these fake competitions are an example of like farming scams. That is the process of attracting followers through dishonest or manipulative ways. Offering something that doesn’t exist is certainly dishonest.
How are they dangerous?
It may seem tempting – a quick share, like and comment and you stand a chance of winning that latest Apple iPhone. The “just in case” justification entices you.
But wait, as it turns out, you’re now instructed to also like the page that made the post to continue, and now you’re told to click on a link to “qualify” for your prize. And from here, depending on which specific type of spammy competition you happened to stumble on, a number of different scams could take place.
Most commonly you’re told to complete a survey. These are Facebook survey scams. They lure you on false pretences – the assertion you could win something – with the goal of obtaining your personal information to spam you with various other unsolicited offers that will invariably lead you further into the “rabbit hole” that you are finding yourself in. Survey scams harvest the personal information of those who complete them, and the spammer who set up the Facebook competiton gets a commission for sending you there.
By the time you realise the competition was a ruse, it’s too late.
Alternatively these sites could be used for other nefarious purposes, such as fooling you into installing malware, or committing identity theft.
Being the target of unsolicited spam, having malware downloaded on your computer or having your identity stolen are all potential outcomes of this type of spam, all because of a Facebook post telling you to like and share it to stand a chance of winning something.
How are you putting your own friends at risk
Quite simply, as a prerequisite for entering these fake competitions, you have to share them with your friends.
Sharing these posts will cause them to appear on the newsfeeds of your friends, who are thus likely to engage them as well, especially considering that within the realms of Facebook, seeing a friend share something often appears to infer that they have endorsed it.
How to avoid them
Avoiding these types of scams is overwhelmingly simple.
Firstly, if you see a suspicious post that you feel may be a fake competition, head straight over to the page or event that made the post and find out if it is the official page for whoever asserts to be running the competition.
For example, if the post is purporting to offer a free iPad, is the page the official Apple page? Just because it looks like it might be, it doesn’t mean it necessarily is. The official pages of brands like Apple are donated with a blue verification tick (see below) which fake pages will lack.
You can also look at the creation date of the page itself. Newly created pages are unlikely to be official brand pages and are likely to be peddling scams.
The bottom line…
These scams can be dangerous. There is no “just in case” justification here because not only do you put yourself at risk, but you put your social media friends at risk too.
Remember, on websites like Facebook, you need to act responsibly and stop clicking on any posts you find enticing. It could be your friends that ultimately pay the price.