Are you one of the estimated 2 billion worldwide active monthly Facebook users? There are so many fun things that you can do on the social media site it's hard not to like. Playing games, re-connecting with long lost friends and keeping up with family members that live thousands of miles away to name a few.
However, there are some negative aspects to the site that you should be aware of. We're always warning you about Facebook scams, like this phony wine bottle exchange program. Well, there is a new hoax going around that is intended to tug at your heartstrings.
What we're talking about is a Facebook post featuring a picture of a child that supposedly has cancer. In reality, the image was stolen online to create this "like-farming" scam.
What is like-farming?
Like-farming is just what it sounds like. Scammers post a story on Facebook for the purpose of cultivating likes and shares. Based on the way Facebook works, the more likes and shares a post has, the more likely it is to show up in people's News Feeds.
This gives the scammer more eyeballs for posts that trick people out of information or send them to malicious downloads. The story they originally post has nothing dangerous about it. Only after the post gets a certain number of likes and shares does the scammer edit it and add something malicious.
In this recent example, scammers took a picture that they found online of a child with a severe case of chickenpox. They then created a fraudulent post that said, "This little baby has cancer and he needs money for surgery. Facebook has decided to help by giving 1 Like = 2 dollars, 1 Comment = 4 dollars, 1 Share = 8 dollars."
Image: Child suffering with chickenpox used for fake Facebook post. (Source: Mercury Press)
This post started to go viral and was shared by over 1.2 million Facebook users. The mother of the little boy in the picture reported the page as fraudulent to Facebook and it was eventually taken down.
This incident shows how easy it is for people to be duped into Facebook scams. If the fake page wasn't removed by the social media site, it most likely would have been turned into a malicious link by the scammers.
How to avoid like-farming scams
There are many scams on Facebook and most of them can be used for like-farming. A popular one, for example, is a post that asks you to like or share so you can win something. I've seen several recently from local butchers offering free packages of meat to one lucky person who likes and shares its post.
You will also frequently see posts that are allegedly from someone who recently won a large sum of money from a lottery. If you like and share the post, you could get a share of the winnings.
It isn't just posts either; it can also be pages. A scammer might set up a page for "I love puppies" or what appears to be a worthy company or organization.
Just enough content is posted to get a ton of likes, then the scammer switches the content for spam and or malicious links that could infect your gadget. Once you've liked the page, everything new the cybercriminal puts up goes on your News Feed, and in some cases, your friends' feeds as well.
Follow these tips and they will help you avoid Facebook like-farming scams:
- Your best bet is to be very judicious about what you like and share on Facebook. Don't just reflexively click "like" on everything.
- Take a look at where the post is coming from. If it's from someone you don't recognize, it could be a friend of a friend or it could be a complete stranger. It would be good to find out.
- Notice the content and whether it promises anything for liking or sharing. If it does, it's a good clue that it's a scam of some kind. The same goes if you feel pushed or pressured into clicking like or share.
Don't forget that, in the end, not liking things isn't just a good security measure. It also reduces the clutter in your friends' news feeds, and their clutter in yours, so you can all spend more time seeing the really important posts. That's a win-win for everyone.