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Facebook and Other Scams, Part 2

February 23rd, 2012 | by admin admin | in Security Advice |    0   comments

Last week,1 we raised the issue of scams on Facebook, such as bogus apps for removing the timeline setting from your profile. In this respect, social networks are no different from other forms of communication. Whether a con artist reaches you by phone, e-mail or at your front door, the basic strategy is the same. They offer you a great deal for little or no commitment.

Here are a few common scams to watch out for:

1. A fake Facebook dislike button leads you to an external web site, where you’re prompted for information. Meanwhile, the app spams all your friends, letting them know you’ve installed it.

2. Stalker tracker: An e-mail message informs you a friend has tagged you in a photo and promotes an app to track who’s visiting your profile. It doesn't. You, and your friends, receive a lot of spam posts.

3. Watch this video: Your friend posts a link to a video, with a comment such as, “Is this you? LOL.” Chances are, your friend clicked on a similar link and unintentionally spammed you.

4. Remove timeline apps and websites usually spread virally among your contacts, spam you and your network, and occasionally, solicit information. Facebook itself does not provide a way for you to remove your timeline setting once you’ve switched over.

5. Free lunch: In 2009, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning about Facebook ads. “Lose 4 Dress Sizes,” claimed one ad, using Oprah’s name to sell an expensive acai berry supplement. Another enticed stay-at-home moms hoping to earn K a year to sign up for quick-cash programs – with victims ultimately paying $ 70 per month for the "service."

For an extensive list of potential scams, visit Facebook's security page.

Since every con artist takes advantage of victims’ trust, your first line of defence is to be skeptical. If a Facebook “like” button doesn’t require an app, why would a “dislike” button need one? Why is the app directing you to an external web site, and why is it taking so long to load? Probably to bounce you between proxy servers to hide the true spammer’s location.

Whether on Facebook, Twitter or e-mail, always confirm with your friends whether links are authentic before clicking on them. Many scammers make money by directing you to pay-per-click sites. They also get paid if you fill out information. Never disclose your login, credit card, financial or other personal information.

Of course, con artists don’t need the Internet to make money. The most common scam – accounting for 70 to 80 per cent of all scams reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in September 2011– involves a simple phone call offering to protect your computer from viruses. The RCMP and CAFC advise you to simply hang up. Do not give out your computer access codes and do not give out your credit card information.

Finally, perhaps the most poignant example of exploiting a person’s trust is the grandparent scam:

Con (on phone):“Hi,Grandpa/Grandma.”


Con:“Do you know who this is?”


Con:“Yeah. Hey, Grandpa/Grandma, don’t tell mom or dad, but I’m in some trouble.”

The con artist then asks the grandparent to wire him money because he’s in jail, had a car accident, in the hospital, etc. By the time the truth comes out, the money is long gone, via difficult-to-trace wire transfer.

To protect yourself from these and other scams, apply a healthy dose of skepticism to your online and everyday interactions. Think before you click. Wait before you share. Research before you install or buy.

Public Alert: The North Vancouver RCMP has noted a sharp spike in theft from vehicles: 28 incidents from February 15 to 17 alone.

1. From IPO to Scams: How Not to Get Rich on Facebook

Sources and further reading:

Spot and Avoid Facebook Scams. PC World, June 21, 2011.

Beware of ‘Remove Timeline’ Facebook Scams. PC World, January 31, 2012.

BBB Says Buyer Beware When Clicking on Facebook Ads. Better Business Bureau, April 7, 2009.

Emergency or ‘Grandparent’ Scam. Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Computer Scam Goes Viral in Canada. Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Author: Susanna Chu

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