Chances are high that you've been a victim of a Facebook scam, and you may not even know about it. Late last week, the Naked Security blog posted an alert about a scam claiming that Facebook would begin charging for its services and promising a way to continue using Facebook for free. The scam has been around for years, but people keep clicking.
Now that Facebook has crossed the 1-billion-member mark, it will only continue to attract cybercriminals looking to make easy money off of an irresistibly large user pool. Here's how to spot a possible scam on Facebook and where to go to find out the truth. A quick fact check could save you and your friends from getting ripped off by Facebook scammers.
Most scams fall into three categories: free offers, scandalous news and Facebook account or service changes. Over the past year, Facebook users have been offered everything from free Disneyland tickets to free iPads to Costco gift certificates. Don't bite.
"If you can't find the particular offer on the retailer's main website or Facebook fan page, you should avoid the offer," Internet watchdog blog Bulldog Estate wrote.
For the same reasons that people tune into shows like "Jerry Springer," Facebook users can't help clicking on a post that promises to reveal the shocking and scandalous. These scams may involve celebrities, such as with a fake Miley Cyrus sex tape, or ordinary people.
"Anything that starts out with 'OMG' or 'Shocking' is best left alone on Facebook," warns Facecrook, a site that specializes in exposing Facebook scams. "These usually end in a survey scam and a video that doesn’t play."
Instead of threats, like being charged for Facebook, scammers also try sweeter approaches. In September, Facecrook reported on a bogus post offering an app to change the color of Facebook, which swept through the site. The message read, "WOW!!! Hello PINK Facebook!!! Goodbye BLUE Facebook! You can now change your Facebook color to 8 different colors using color changer v1.3 here."
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Scammers often use fake features that they know users want in order to lure people into clicking fraudulent links. Other examples include a Facebook dislike button, an app to find out who has been viewing your profile and a tool to remove the oft-unpopular Timeline interface. If Facebook news appears in your feed as a post instead of at the top of your page, beware.
In addition to the websites listed above, you can also go to Snopes.com. Since 1995, the site has built its reputation on finding the real truth about urban legends, but has also become an authoritative hub for Internet scams, including those on Facebook.
HoaxSlayer is another excellent source, which got its start in 2003 exposing email scams and now includes every kind of social media trap. To use any of these resources, go to the site and type in a few keywords, such as "Facebook dislike button." If you get results, you have just avoided getting scammed.