Why 'Liking' Facebook virals makes scammers rich

Facebook users who've clicked viral links such as 'Click This if You Hate Cancer' could be in for a nasty surprise.

'Viral' links such as this do nothing - and are just used to harvest 'Likes' to be sold on (Image: Facebook)

Facebook users who've clicked viral links such as 'Click This if You Hate Cancer' could be in for a nasty surprise.

The links - and others such as 'click this picture and see what happens' do nothing except make cyber-scammers rich.

Once the pages have collected huge numbers of 'Likes', they are then sold, for cash, to other businesses who use them to make their page appear popular.

A blog post by Daylan Pearce, a search-engine expert at Next Digital in Melbourne, explains how the nonsense posts scam works - and shows how the pages are sold on.

[Related: How 'sexy' photos on social networks are stolen and reused ]

The posts - images with captions such as 'Like if you can see the tiger,' or 'Comment and see what happens' are used to build 'Likes' and 'Comments' for pages.

Once a page has collected thousands of likes and comments, it will appear higher in people's News Feeds on Facebook - 'Likes' are the 'currency' of the site, as it were.

Pages with 100,000 likes can be sold for $200, according to adverts unearthed by Pearce.

Pearce explains in a blog post, 'The Facebook Like algorithm is Facebook’s way of dictating if content is of any value to users. The more likes/shares/comments it gets, the more exposure to certain people it, and the profile it belongs to, will get both short term and long term.

'All these metrics contribute to a users ‘edge rank’ – the score your profile is given that dictates how your page interacts with other profiles on Facebook. '

'Within 3 days a post like this one has 70,000 likes, and someone somewhere is about to make a nice little profit by selling the page to a business wanting some quick wins. The buyer then changes the page details.Instant fanpage with a big following, lots of likes and an in depth edge rank.

David Emm, senior security research at Kaspersky Lab, says, 'Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are increasingly becoming targets for cybercriminals.

'The main reason for this is the trust that people feel whilst socialising with their friends online. People are much more likely to click on a link shared by a friend, and this inherent trust is something cybercriminals prey upon.'

'Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen incredible growth in the amount of personal information people will voluntarily share, and cybercriminals have naturally ‘followed the money’ by creating scams specifically targeting social networks.'