It's amazing to think how much the word 'like' has changed in the 10 years Facebook has been around. It used to mean that you had a positive feeling toward something. Now it's about clicking an online button, even if you don't always 'like' the content.
For example, you might not like the announcement that your friend's pet just died, but you might click "like" to acknowledge that you've read the post and that you're thinking of them. In fact, liking posts is something of a reflex for many people, and it's a reflex that scammers are taking advantage of. Welcome to "like-farming."
Like-farming is just what it sounds like. Scammers post a story on Facebook for the express 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 big question, of course, is why Facebook doesn't stop these posts before they get too big. And that's where the real scam comes in.
Scammers have found a simple way to fly under the radar during the early phases of their operation. The story they originally post to Facebook has nothing dangerous about it. It's just a regular story that anyone might post.
Only after the post gets a certain number of likes and shares does the scammer edit it and add something malicious. In fact, if you go back through your history of likes, you might find that some of them have changed to something you wouldn't have liked in a million years. So, what kinds of stories do scammers start with to trick people into liking and sharing?
One popular type of story is the emotional one. You've definitely seen posts showing you rescue animals and asking you to like if you think they're cute. Or maybe it was a medical story where you're asked to like that the person was cured, or to let them know they're still beautiful.
There are also the posts that ask you to like to show that you're against something the government is doing or disagree with something terrible happening in the world. Or maybe it's the "if I get X number of likes, then X will happen for me" or "I was challenged to get X number of likes," and so forth.
Basically, any post that asks you to like it for emotional reasons, unless you know the person, is quite probably a like-farm post. Of course, emotional posts aren't the only types of post you need to watch for.
There are a lot of scams on Facebook that we've warned you about in the past, and most of them can be used for like-farming. A popular one, for example, is posts that ask you to like or share so you can win something. This happens especially whenever Apple launches a new iPhone or iPad.
You might have seen recently during the huge Powerball frenzy people posting on Facebook saying anyone who likes their post will get a share of their winnings. How real do you think those were?
What about brain teaser posts, such as the ones that have you like or share if you can read the words backwards or solved a tricky math problem.
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. It puts up enough content to get a lot of likes, then switches the content for spam and scams. Once you've liked the page, everything new the scammers put up goes on your News Feed, and in some cases your friends' feeds as well.
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. You should also familiarize yourself with Facebook scams in general so you know what to look for.
Don't forget that, in the end, not liking things isn't just a good security measure. It also reduces the clutter from you 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.