Facebook Scam Leads Internet Crime Wave

Latest social networking and Facebook scam tricks — plus 6 simple rules that can help you protect yourself: Internet Scambusters #388

Will you become a victim of a Facebook scam? With something like one in 10 of the world’s adults now using them, social networking sites like Facebook are quickly becoming the number one target for Internet scams.

Facebook scams lead the pack, with new tricks appearing almost daily, but other big sites like Twitter and MySpace are also key targets.

In this week’s issue, we highlight some of the latest scams and provide the basic information you need to spot and avoid them.

However, we first want to share a valuable resource which answers so many of the questions about Internet safety we hear day in and day out.

About 2 years ago, we recommended “Internet Safety: Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet,” created by our friend Leo Notenboom.

Leo has recently updated his ebook to Version 2.

“Internet Safety” is 99 pages and covers “the things you must do, the software you must run and the concepts you need to be aware of – to keep your computer and your data safe as you use the internet,” including firewalls, viruses, spyware, mobile security, backing up and physical security. And did we mention that it’s free?

We highly recommend you download it now — and be sure to recommend it to a few people you care about as well.

On to today’s main topic…

Facebook Scam Leads Internet Crime Wave

Facebook scams and other social networking con tricks are now so common, they’re almost in the dime-a-dozen category.

Seems like a new social networking scam appears every day. Facebook, the world’s biggest social networking site (471 million users) is also the Number 1 social media target for online crooks. Facebook is reported to be working on an automated system that will remove phony pages.

Another big target, Twitter (70-plus million members), recently announced plans for a new link screening service that checks for potential Twitter phishing scam sites.

(By the way, if you’re not quite sure what social networking is, then you probably don’t need to know. But, basically, they’re just websites where like-minded people register, have their own pages, and communicate with each other.)

Here at Scambusters, we’ve already highlighted some social networking scams, including the five most common tricks and a recent alert that investment scams may be heading for these online meeting places.

The 5 Most Common Social Networking Scams

Are Facebook and Twitter Next For Investment Scams?

Since then, there’s been a whole crop of new tricks on most of these sites.

One recent Facebook scam, for instance, involved a fake page offering free gift cards. Together with a similar trick pulled just a few weeks earlier, more than 100,000 people fell for it.

Victims had to sign up for the supposed deal, giving their names, addresses, and other details, but the gift cards never arrived.

Interviewed by PCWorld.com, Scambusters co-founder Audri Lanford warned that a victim’s personal information could be used for identity theft or her computer could be hacked. “Why people would give this [information] is beyond me, but they do,” she said.

Facebook Takes Steps to Deal With Gift Card Scams

In another Facebook scam incident, victims were invited to complete a credit registration form, but downloading it installed malware that crashed their PCs — but only after capturing all their confidential information.

A particularly sneaky recent Facebook scam masquerades as an antivirus service. Victims are invited to download a product called Facebook Antivirus, which then hijacks their list of “friends” and asks them to download the product too, then posts pictures on their pages.

Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to do anything else beyond messing up your online relationships!

Also, a few weeks back, Facebook was targeted by a phishing agent inside an unsolicited email that tricked users into thinking they were resetting their usernames and passwords. They were taken to a bogus page where they had to key in their real username and passwords, information that was then used to hijack their accounts.

You’ll find similar types of scams on other social networking sites.

The amazing thing, as Audri said, is how easily people fall for these tricks.

Yet, following a few simple tips will virtually eliminate the risk of becoming a victim of a Facebook or other social networking scam.

6 Tips for Avoiding Facebook and Other Social Media Scams

1. Install Internet security software from one of the big-name providers and keep it up to date. Never download or install supposed security programs that purport to be linked to a specific site you use, like Facebook.

Use a security program or a browser that includes an anti-phishing website checker.

2. If you follow a link that’s supposed to take you to another page on the same site, check the address bar of your browser to make sure of where you really are. For example, if it’s a genuine Facebook page, the address will begin with www.facebook.com.

3. When you receive emails, posts or messages, never assume they’re from who they say they are — even if they’re friends.

Be especially wary if:

– They ask for money; don’t send it without independently verifying the source.

– They invite you to download a program.

– They contain an attachment (most social networking site operators, including Facebook, don’t send attachments).

4. Don’t give your password to anyone. Make it a tough one to guess and change it frequently. See Get Tough With Computer Passwords and Secret Questions for more advice on passwords.

If, for any reason, you’re asked to change your password, visit the social networking site by keying its address into your browser, not by clicking a link.

5. If you receive or hear of an offer, like a free gift card, it’s often a scam. If you’re not sure, go to the website of or contact the company that’s supposedly offering the card and check it out with them.

Be aware of the risks of providing any personal details on a website. Only provide them to sites you’re 100% sure are legit and who have a privacy policy that makes clear how those details may be used.

6. Know that if you post your picture and personal details about yourself, you are, at least to some degree, laying yourself open to a possible identity theft.

Many people do choose to do this, but you should, at least, know the risk.

With something like one in 10 of the world’s adult population now using social networking, these sites are fast becoming a key way not only of communicating but of sharing information and friendships.

But their very popularity makes them potentially unsafe. You can avoid a Facebook scam or similar threat by following our basic tips, staying tuned to Scambusters and following the security alerts on the sites themselves.

Time to close — we’re off to take a walk. See you next week.