Friday, April 12, 2013

Be Careful Before You "Like" Something on Facebook

If you're on facebook, you've seen tons of these posts. "Like" if you hate cancer - or if you hate bullying. If I get X number of likes, my dad will quit taking drugs. Name a city without an R in it. Find a word in this puzzle. Cute pictures of animals asking you to "like" them. Posts that say something magical will happen when you click on the picture. Pictures of famous people with quotes they never said. Guess what? Most are scams.

You may have worked hard to get rid of junk mail, put yourself on the "do not call" list, and are careful not to open suspicious links in your email. But if you responded to any of these posts, you may have been victimized by a scam called Like Farming. Remember how you laughed at people who responded to the email from the Nigerian promising millions? Well, you may have just done something very similar.

Here's how it works. Someone creates a facebook page called something like Support Our Troups. Then they post heroic pictures, telling you to "like" if you support our troups and ignore if you don't. How do you ignore that without feeling guilty? When you like or share it, it goes to all your friends - who then like it and it goes to all their friends. Suddenly this page has hundred of thousands of likes - and their associated facebook identities. There are experts who tell marketers how to do this - here's an example of one.

Some of these may be legitimate. Some may be from someone who doesn't have a life and gets thrill from having a bunch of likes. Some may take you to unwanted websites. But more and more are in it just for the money. How do they make money?

It might just be a clever marketing scheme for a legitimate company. CafeMom is a website for mothers (started by 2 men, which makes me immediately suspicious) that is quite profitable. They put up a facebook post that said "Like" if you love your kids and got 1.3 million likes. Very valuable to their advertiser supported site!

But it may also just be spammers who build up their collection of facebook identities and sell them. They usually work together in loose networks who post each others photos, so they can quickly gain tens of thousands of names and facebook addresses. Then they sell them to a facebook advertiser.

This is perfectly legal and very profitable. Aside from feeling creepy, you might think it's harmless. Terri, the mother of Katie, the child used in this scam, certainly didn't think so. 3.5 million people liked this photo, and their identities were sold for big bucks.

"This is my sister Mallory. She has Down syndrome and doesn't think she's beautiful. Please like this photo so I can show her later that she truly is beautiful." 

What can you do to prevent your identity from being sold? It's not easy. When I went on facebook this morning, I spotted 15 spammers from those who are friends with the Library on facebook - before I quit counting. The most important thing is to Think Before Clicking. Ask yourself: Do I really have to like or share this? Remember, you are not only exposing yourself, but your friends as well. You should be able to notice the most obvious ones. However, these scammers are becoming more and more clever.  Look at the page that originated the post - not your friend who shared or like it. If it's not one you recognize, don't click. If you have friends who keep sending these, send them a link to this post and suggest that they be more careful. If they ignore your advice, you may want to unfriend them.

No comments:

Post a Comment