Better Business Bureau calls attention to ‘Like-Farming’ Facebook scam

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Why do spammers use like-farming?

One common question is why do spammers engage in like-farming, and what is their ultimate objective. This can vary between like-farming posts, but commonly we find that like-farming posts exist because of any of the following reasons –

To attract followers to page that will be later used to initiate more serious scams. Like-farming content that goes viral will inevitably result in the page that posts the content attracting followers. These followers can now be reached, meaning they are vulnerable to Internet scams such as identity fraud or exposed to links leading to sites containing malware.

To lure followers to marketing websites that are designed to harvest the personal data of visitors. This is especially true with fake competition scams that claim you need to visit a link to claim your prize. Those visitors to go to such websites and give out their details will be bombarded with spam and marketing calls.

To commit advance fee fraud. Users who, for example, comment on a post, can then be contacted by the scammer who can use a variety of social engineering tricks to steal money from a Facebook user. For example, the spammer may claim the victim has won a competition but needs to pay a small upfront fee to claim their prize.

Attention seeking. Many like-farming posts exist simply because the spammer wants to attract as many followers as possible, with no real “end game”.

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So how can you fight back?

There are a number of things you can do to identify like farming, spam, and scams in your feed.

Double check the name. Scammers get away with creating Pages that look official because there’s only a tiny difference between the fake company or celebrity name and the real one. Telltale signs are dashes where there should be spaces or unnecessary punctuation. But other changes are more subtle, like adding or subtracting an “s” (think “American Airline” v. “American Airlines”). Unless you’re careful, these can be difficult to catch.

Double check the source. Any article being shared from a sketchy-looking website is just that: sketchy. Make sure to look at the website url listed at the bottom of the post before clicking to read!

Look for the verified badge. Real company or celeb

Look for the verified badge. Real company or celebrity Pages will have a blue tick next to the name — you can trust any contests or giveaways run on these Pages.

Review the content. If the post is riddled with misspellings, full of urgency and excessive exclamation points, or seems like it’s been translated to English from another language, that’s a clear sign that you’re not dealing with trustworthy material.

The Dangers Start With a Like

There are many different types of like-farming posts that you need to be aware of to make sure you aren’t spreading the scam. You’ve most likely seen them scattered throughout your newsfeed. They’re emotional posts that tug on your heartstrings, rallying posts that attempt to get you agree or disagree by sharing, and magic posts that tell you to comment and share for a special effect that never happens.

Liking these photos may seem innocent enough, but it’s not. Each time you like a post, your friends and followers can see it too, so they’ll share it and the post will spread. Chances are a lot of people who see that post will also like that page.

Even though a page you like doesn’t have access to your profile like your friends do (as long as it’s private), a page you like can use your profile information to push promotional offers based on your interests, tempt you with contests where you’re asked for personal information, or even post on your behalf.

Again, that might not seem too terrible. What’s a little spam? We’re all used to it. But what if your friends and family engage with the contests and give out their phone number and home address? Or if they see a tempting offer for a cool download, and accidentally infect their devices with malware? They could even become victims of a phishing scam by trying to make a purchase from a website shared on one of these profiles, so that the scammer now has their credit card info.

Scams can also include download prompts, which are used to spread malware or for phishing. There are also fake news stories that are concocted and then shared in the hopes of getting extremely gullible users to give their credit card information to make a monetary donation in support.

So, while it might seem like nothing to “like” and share a post about a person who needs your prayers, you’re actually setting off a chain of events that increases the chances of you becoming a victim of spam and other fraud.

Facebook spam forever?

Until, perhaps, we invent technology that can read the intentions of a person creating a Page, we’ll always have to deal with like farming and other types of spam. Hopefully Facebook will keep refining their reporting tools, but until then, our best tool to reduce the flow of spam through our feeds is simply ourselves.

You don’t have to do it all by yourself, though. If you’re looking to ramp up engagement in your Facebook audience — in a non-spammy way, of course — we can help.

Image credit: illustration by Eduardo Salles / cinismoilustrado.com

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