Facebook Scams: How To Spot And Avoid Them

Are the free iPads, incredible videos and amazing stories that sweep Facebook all scams designed to steal information - probably.

Student Quizzed Over Pro-Israel Facebook Post

Nearly 40% of us have fallen victim to a scam online.

The scams are gettig more and more sophisticated (and often callous). For example, earlier in the year gangs spread several stories on Facebook that the missing Malaysian airlines flight MH370 had been found using photos from older stories. The links led to surveys designed to steal information such as passwords.

Facebook scams are increasingly common and hard to spot
Facebook scams are increasingly common and hard to spot

These links can also infect your PC or spam your friends too.

Here are our tips for how to be social, without being scammed.

Know who your friends are

Nearly a third of us (31%) admit to having friends online we don’t know at all in real life, and that’s a serious risk. In social games, it can help to befriend other gamers to trade, or battle together - but don’t do it. Friends have access to private information you would not share in real life. Don’t do it online.

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Be wary of friends who “unfriended” you

Cybercriminals often play on our worries and on social sites, being “unfriended” is a big one. If you are ever sent a request by someone you thought you were friends with, be careful. Scammers sometimes “clone” a person’s page, then send requests to all their friends in the hope that they’ll be so relieved they’ll accept. Even cautious site users who have set profiles to share information with Friends Only can then be data-mined by the scammer or the ‘new friend’ is free to bombard you with malicious links.

Is that news story too good to be true?

Odds are, it is not true. Cybercriminals move fast - especially on Twitter. A fake Tweet about an attack on the White House briefly wiped millions off stock markets and a Tweet from a celebrity site, saying, “Justin Bieber: I’m gay” was retweeted more than 1,000 times. These scammers usually want you to follow them back - so they can spam you with bogus diet products and other internet junk.

The ‘incredible’ video

Whether it’s a giant snake eating a zookeeper, or a headline such as “Fox Breaking News - 16 people are confirmed dead in a roller coaster accident that occurred at Universal Studios in Florida,” be wary. These circulate constantly on Facebook with users asked to complete surveys to see the video or update video software. The surveys harvest information they then use to spam you or carry out credit card scams. The video software is malware which can damage your PC.

Log out every time

Leaving yourself logged in to a social site is dangerous (and not just from friends posting ‘funny’ updates). But 39% of us do it, according to Symantec. Social networks are private and you should ensure no one gets access to yours. If a criminal has details such as your address and phone number, they can steal from you - and will.

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A strong password is essential

If someone (a friend of a friend) sees your page, they often glimpse details of your life - ie your home town, or your pet’s name. NEVER base a password on one of these. Instead, use a favourite quote, or initials of a favourite song lyric. If it's based on something on your page, you are handing criminals the keys to your online life.

There are no “free iPads”

Answering a survey to win an iPad sounds like a great deal, but there are never, ever any iPads. This circulates regularly as a link on Facebook, but each time the survey is simply designed to steal information. Even on Pinterest, these offers now surface, or fake ‘deals’ where you’re asked to repin the link, spreading it to other users for the chance to win prizes.

LinkedIn - The perfect job?

LinkedIn is very attractive to criminals because users tend to post CVs and other information. It’s then easy to use these details to obtain credit cards, or other scams. Be wary. Bogus recruiters are known to approach site users with jobs (the false recruiters are usually attractive women) and ask to become a contact. Before accepting the request, check their profile. Does it look real? Do you have any shared contacts? Do you work in the same industry? If you're in doubt - say no.