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HOW TO: Avoid Facebook Scams

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Scams are all over Facebook. There are stories telling users that Facebook will end on a certain date, miracle diet pills, celebrity sex tapes, and other shady posts. With a little vigilance, though, users can make sure that they’re not continuing the chain. Miranda Perry, staff writer for Scambook, spoke with AllFacebook about ways that people can make sure that they’re not giving away information to scammers or spamming their friends’ News Feeds with malicious links.

Scambook is a complaint resolution platform, where customers can air their grievances and let others know about unscrupulous business practices and identity theft. The company also informs people of scams on social media, using its blog to write about the newest hoaxes that are going viral on Facebook.

Perry shared with AllFacebook some ways that users can protect themselves (and their friends) from Facebook scams.

One of the most common Facebook scams involves links that either infect the computer with malware or automatically share content to a user’s Timeline. Perry said that by taking a couple extra seconds to examine not only a suspicious link but the person who shared it, people can protect themselves.

For instance, if a fitness buff friend shares a link showing how she’s lost 30 lbs. using one weird old trick, or if a pastor shares a link purportedly showing Rihanna’s sex tape, odds are extremely high that it’s a scam. Perry said that red flags should go up whenever someone shares something to Facebook that seems atypical of their nature. If users truly aren’t sure, Perry recommends calling or contacting that person offline to see if their account has been compromised:

The No. 1 step is just to look at the source and avoid clicking on links or sharing anything on Facebook that seems suspicious. For instance, if you know that your friend is a super-skinny athlete, they are probably not going to be telling you that they’ve just used weight loss pills. If they’re posting that on their Timeline, that’s a pretty good sign that their account has been hacked.

Essentially, if something in your News Feed seems suspicious, it’s best to avoid clicking it and let that user know.

We all know that Facebook changes rapidly and without notice. But when the site does change something majorly, they go through official channels to notify users. If you’re seeing something in your News Feed such as the ability to change the color of your Facebook account (or really do anything to make it look more like your old MySpace page), chances are extremely high that it’s a scam.

Last year, several people shared the Facebook Black scam, which reportedly allowed users to go from Facebook’s traditional blue-and-white scheme to black — but all it did in reality was lead users to complete online surveys, earning money for scammers. Similar hoaxes on Facebook have tricked users into thinking they could change their scheme to pink or red.

Perry said that users should be suspicious of any Facebook product, hack, or change that isn’t announced or supported by Facebook itself. Legitimate new features and changes (as well as hoaxes and scams) are covered regularly on AllFacebook, as well as sister site Inside Facebook.

Perry said that many scammers are using videos to lure users into giving up personal information or putting malware onto the computer. While a video may look legitimate and indistinguishable from a legitimate YouTube post, there are a few clues that users can find to see if it is safe. Namely to look for the youtube.com domain name on a video, and be suspicious of videos with keywords or domain names you haven’t heard of.

Safe:

Not safe (image courtesy of Sophos’ Naked Security):

Perry described how video scams work on Facebook:

In some cases, it will say “LOL OMG, did you see this new video? I can’t believe someone caught that on film!” or “I can’t believe they got you on film.” When you click on this link, it doesn’t take you to an actual YouTube video, or any kind of clip that you can watch, it takes you to a website to prompt you to download some kind of a “Flash update,” or Javascript update, when in fact what you end up downloading is malware, which is then going to infect your computer.

Perry also talked about with any link, how important it is to make sure the domain is correct. Many times, scammers will post an innocent-looking link (such as one telling you that your Facebook account has been hacked and you need to reset your password), but the domain name will be unwieldy or suspicious. Before clicking, mouse over the link and check the domain name.

Some tips, if you’ve already clicked on a scam link on Facebook:

  • Immediately delete that link from your Timeline.
  • Change your password, as well as any other online passwords you have saved, such as for your bank account or e-mail.
  • Let friends know that the link you’ve shared accidentally is a scam.

Some other tips to make sure it doesn’t happen again:

  • Check your privacy settings often.
  • Double-check if something looks suspicious.
  • Make sure that the link you’ve clicked on is a secure site. Look in the address bar for https with a lock, verifying the site’s security.
  • Enlist trusted contacts.
  • Make sure you have good antivirus software.
  • Check your active sessions, to make sure someone else isn’t logged into your account.

Readers: Have you ever clicked on a scam link on Facebook?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

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