The latest round of Facebook scams involves bogus clothing giveaways and an even more depraved twist on a "sex" video from earlier this week — even as the company teams up with Microsoft to provide Skype video calls.
"First 750,000 Get a Free Smiley Hat To Help Promote Our New Clothing Line," reads one version of a new scam spotted by Graham Cluley of Sophos' Naked Security blog.
The unnamed company promises free baseball caps to hundreds of thousands of people who are willing to a) share the link with all their friends and b) give the promoter their names and home addresses in a follow-up email.
Bear in mind that anyone who signs up for this will have no idea to whom they're sending their personal details, and will have no guarantee they'll actually get a baseball cap.
Very similar is another scam promising free Vans sneakers to the first 200,000 people who share another Facebook posting, and again provide their names and addresses.
In this case, there's a real company mentioned — and the real company isn't happy about it.
"Hey UK Vans family. Heads up," reads a posting on the official Vans Europe Facebook page. "There's a huge scam gaining traction in your neck of the woods. This is TOTALLY BOGUS and has nothing to do with Vans. You'll not be getting free shoes for liking that page. We've asked for facebook to take down the page, but we don't want you getting bummed on us...so don't fall for it. Thanks!"
Meanwhile, the "ex-girlfriend sex video" scam from earlier this week has gotten even nastier. Now it's pretending to be a video in which a brother sexually assaults his own sister — or, in the filter-dodging foreign-character-heavy rendition used by the scammers:
"ÖMG: BRÔTHËR rãpés hís sïstér — Wâtch thîs shóckîng VÍDÊÕ! Shé wäs hurtïng fór dâys, ånd côuld nòt wãlk!"
But as before, there's no video (and thankfully so). You have to answer "Jaa" to whether you're 18 (which, remember, really is the Finnish-language version of the "Share" button), at which point you're taken to a marketing survey that earns money for the scammer.
Cluley asks a reasonable question: Why doesn't Facebook do more to stop these rampant, blatant scams? After all, it's got brilliant people working for it.
One of Facebook's appeals to software developers is that it's easy to create applications for it. But the company still does not vet those applications before developers post them.
The social-networking service, which has replaced the wider Web as the primary Internet experience for a large part of its 750 million members, is full of scams trying to steal members' time, money and identities — even as many don't realize Facebook is just as perilous as the Web beyond its walls.
Cluley's colleague Paul Ducklin fears that the addition of Skype video chats to Facebook will just make things worse. He worries that scammers will use Skype to target gullible Facebookers with "stranded in London, need money fast" pleas, or fake tech support calls, especially if the video is bad enough to blur faces.
After all, hackers have used Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony to hack into celebrities' voicemail, bother police with bogus emergency calls and socially engineer database breaches. There's no reason they couldn't do the same with Facebook Video Calling.
UPDATE: Scammers have begun to use Facebook Video Calling, or at least the hype surrounding it. A scam appeared Friday that pretended to an app for the video-chat service, but was in fact just another survey scam.
The real Facebook Video Calling is just an additional feature embedded into the existing Facebook chat service — click on the icon of a video camera in the chat window to use it.