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updated 10/4/2011 11:19:42 AM ET 2011-10-04T15:19:42

Would you turn down two free airline tickets? You can use them to go anywhere in the United States, no strings attached, and all you have to do is answer a few quick questions online. Especially with the holiday season in the near future, it's a nearly irresistible offer.

Nobody knows a hot deal like an Internet scammer, and nothing helps a hot scam spread quite like Facebook. Capitalizing on this dangerous combination, online fraudsters have created a fraudulent marketing promotion offering two free Southwest Airlines tickets anywhere in the U.S. to a few select Facebook users.

All the lucky would-be winner has to do redeem their free plane tickets is click the "share" button on Facebook and write "Southwest is the best" in the comment section of the post.

To test the validity of the offer, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for the security firm Sophos shared the link — he did not write the phrase "Southwest is the best" — and was immediately told he was a winner.

Cluley was then redirected to a prize page offering an iPad 2, a free cruise and, of course, the free airline tickets. Clicking on any of the supposed gifts only takes users to a survey page that generates revenue for the scammers, Cluley said, while dreams of sailing the seas or flying for free are left hopelessly unfulfilled.

Facebook, with its hundreds of millions of devoted members, continues to provide Internet miscreants with a fish-in-a-barrel scenario for spreading scams and snaring victims. Coupled with something as universally desired as free plane tickets, it's no surprise these tricks continue to work on many users.

Luckily, there are ways to stay safe on Facebook without deleting your account. For one, make sure to configure your account with the highest security and privacy settings to regulate who can see you and who has access to different aspects of your profile. It's also important to understand that just because a message comes from someone in your friends list does not mean it is necessarily safe to open. Cybercriminals can very easily hijack your friends' accounts, so if a link or a message looks suspicious, do not open it.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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