Con artists on the attack with Facebook scams, virus warnings and bogus free grocery offers: Internet Scambusters #422
Facebook scams recently hit the headlines in the Internet fraud world -- again -- this time tricking tens of thousands of members into giving crooks access to their pages.
Pretending to offer software that can reveal who's checking out users' profiles, they invite victims to sign up and download what turns out to be malware.
By contrast, another set of scammers claim they'll remove viruses from PCs that aren't really infected, while yet more schemers chase your money by claiming to offer free groceries.
All the details in this week's Snippets issue.
Now, here we go...
Watch Out for Phony Privacy Software in Latest Facebook Scams
Seems like barely a week passes without new Facebook scams popping up. Hardly surprising since the social networking site has more than 500 million members, making it a prime target for crooks.
We've covered plenty of these Facebook scams in previous issues.
But a real doozy showed up during the past couple months, tricking tens of thousands of Facebook users into giving crooks access to their profile pages.
This particular Facebook scam plays on people's curiosity to know who's been checking out their profile.
In fact, there's currently no way a regular Facebook user can really do this. But that's merely an open invitation to crooks to pretend that you can if you use the application they provide.
According to an article at pcmag.com, victims get a message that says something like: "OMG OMG OMG... I can't believe this actually works! Now you really can see who viewed your profile!"
It then provides a link to a page where you're asked to give access to your profile page so that your page visitors can be recorded using an application the crooks call "ePrivacy."
The scammers then steal information from your account and use it to send the same "OMG" message to all your friends -- in your name!
Action: As we said, you can't get any software that shows who visited your pages. And if you already fell for this trick, in Facebook go to Account -> Privacy Settings -> Applications and Websites and delete the app.
Free Groceries Scam
Since we're talking about Facebook scams, if you're a member, you may recently have received an offer of free groceries for completing surveys.
To qualify, you have to "friend" the page offering the deal and then embark on a seemingly never-ending round of market research survey completion.
So far, we've been unable to find anyone online who ever got their grocery voucher but there are sure a lot of people angry at being sucked into this game.
It's just one version of many schemes that use "free groceries" as bait for participation. Sometimes, it's just an out-and-out scam.
For example, consumers responding to a recent series of radio ads offering free groceries discovered all was not as it seemed.
What they got instead was a membership card supposedly entitling them to coupons they could exchange for the groceries. The catch: Recipients had to "activate" the card by paying a substantial fee.
In another variation, radio ads promise a $1,000 grocery card as part of a supposed research project.
This turns out again to be coupons offered via a website. This time, it tells victims they'll receive coupons worth discounts of up to 80% off the cost of certain items -- but they have to pay the promoter a 10% fee to get the coupons.
Even worse, many of the supposed offers turn out to be worthless and won't be honored by the manufacturer.
Yet another free groceries scam involves multi-level marketing (MLM). You know the sort of thing: you buy discounted grocery vouchers, which you must then sell to others for a marked up price, with the lure that they can sell them to yet more suckers.
And so on until the whole giant pyramid collapses.
Action: If a promoter asks you to pay for coupons you'll want to know first if the company really exists and has a creditable reputation; then you need to do your math and see if the deal makes sense. Otherwise, don't do it.
As for surveys, while many may be legitimate, you'll usually find that it takes you hours to qualify for just a small payoff. See these earlier Scambusters articles for more.
Oh, and those MLM schemes? The legality of some of them is highly dubious -- and so are the chances of making any money. Give them a miss.
Phony Expert Comes to the Rescue
While the Facebook scam we started off this week's issue with focuses on attempts to trick you into giving access to malicious software, other crooks come at you from a different angle, pretending your PC is already infected and they want to help you get rid of the culprit.
Most commonly, this scam takes the form of scareware, when you get a screen pop-up warning you of the supposed infection and inviting you to pay to have it removed.
You may end up not only paying but also, again, downloading malware onto your PC. We covered scareware in a previous issue, How to Spot and Avoid a Scareware or ID Theft Protection Scam.
In the latest variant, scammers actually phone you, claiming they're computer experts who just happen to have identified a virus on your PC (goodness knows how!) that's also affecting other users in the neighborhood.
To save your good name and reputation, the scammer asks you to let him access your PC remotely (which is perfectly possible and can easily be done with just a couple of clicks by you).
Hey presto! He's inside your PC, nosing around and stealing whatever information he wants, or demanding a fee for supposedly getting rid of the "virus."
Action: If the guy has to ask you to give him access to your PC, how come he supposedly already knows it's infected? There's no way anyone can detect a virus this way.
If you get a call like this, just hang up. And never click on a pop-up that warns of an infection.
If you don't already have it, install reputable Internet security software; that should give you the protection you need.
The golden rule in spotting and dealing with the scams outlined in this week's issue is never to accept at face value the warnings, "free" offers and supposed invitations to help you, whether they come by phone or online.
Follow that rule and you'll avoid those "free groceries," scareware and Facebook scams!
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!