Friday, 9 December 2011

5 Viral Facebook Scams of 2011

Facebook scams have been on a rise, let’s have a quick look at the scams that hit the social circuit like a viral in 2011...
5 Viral Facebook Scams of 2011
When asked about a platform that connects millions of people, globally the unanimous answer was - Facebook. This doesn't mean that Twitter, LinkedIn and likewise go unnoticed, but Facebook has emerged as a more social friendly platform that opens up to vivid interests of people, like gaming, business, music, photography or for simply staying in touch. Obviously, having millions of people, all under one roof would make a pretty appetizing feast for malicious cyber criminals to prey on. For instance, we often want what’s not accessible to us and this was clearly proved by Facebook scammers last year, who went on a spree, posting intriguing updates like ‘Now you can see who viewed your profile’ or a fake Dislike button. A large number of Facebookers fell for these scams, while the truth is that presently, Facebook does not support any of these functions and there aren't any third party apps that will comply, either.

This year we saw another set of malicious tricks that emerged with the intention to allure unsuspecting users. Let’s have a quick look at the scams that hit the social circuit like a viral and obviously, not one of the good variety, as we race through the end of 2011.

R.I.P Steve Jobs
October 5, 2011 marked the death of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and a charismatic pioneer who revolutionized technology. While many were grieving the demise of this creative genius, some malicious minds decided to cash in on this tragedy within hours. Scammers used freebies to attract users with posts like ‘In Memory of Steve Jobs, Apple has decided to give away 1000 Limited Edition iPad 2s’, ‘In the memory of Steve Jobs, a company is giving 50 iPads tonite’ . Different variations of these posts started emerging quickly, too. Who wouldnt want to own an iPad, especially when it's free. Unfortunately, the link took users directly to survey and gambling websites. Graham Culey, from Sophos managed to shut down this viral scam, which was a link through the short url service. Though folks at shut the link, the damage was already done as it had recorded about 15,000 victims of this hoax in just 15 hours.
Freebies to attract facebook members (Image Credit: Sophos)
Freebies to attract facebook members (Image Credit: Sophos)

OMG! What are you doing in this video
OMG! has been an expression that scammers have been using throughout this year. The OMG and WTF scams appeared in varying forms, inviting both excitement and shock. The curious ones who just couldn't stop themselves were not only directed to a survey form which they unwittingly filled, but also spammed their friends’ Wall wanting to share the "wealth". OMG! [name] what are you doing in this video? spread like wildfire. Once you clicked on the link, the malicious software posted the link onto others’ Walls, which made them believe that it's a genuine post from a legitimate sender. Clicking the link only spread the menace, further. Similar OMG scams were Spider under her skin, which would begin with age verification and of course a survey, albeit not before spamming your friends. You might be familiar with other OMG scams like - This is what happened to his Ex-Girlfriend and ex-girlfriend revenge.

Bin Laden Dead Video
One of the most talked about incidents of the year was the death of Osama Bin Laden. The Al-Qaeda leader was killed by U.S. forces in May, this year and the U.S. President declared that his death photos wouldn't be released. Scammers soon came up with supposedly banned footage of the killing, which started spreading on Facebook. The post read, “Disturbing, yet awesome...SHOCKING NEW video of OSAMA BIN LADEN'S DEATH, Exclusive BANNED VIDEO footage of Osama Bin Laden being killed.” Users were tricked into hitting the like and share button, and once the link was hit, it was eventually posted on Walls of others in their profile. And a big surprise, here was that trying to view the video would take you to yet another survey.
Curious users please dont click (Image Credit: Sophos)
Curious users please dont click (Image Credit: Sophos)
 Oslo Bombings
Sadly, Facebook scammers didn't hesitate to take advantage of another unfortunate tragedy to make money - the Norway bombings were also subject to Social Networking scams. Facebook users who wanted to learn about the happenings in Norway fell victim to this scam. The spam read, "[URL] [Video] OSLO Security Camera Captures Blast! [Video] OSLO Security Camera Captures Blast!" It claimed to flash a video from an Oslo security camera that showed the detonation of a car bomb near a Norwegian government building where several people were killed. However, there was no such camera footage that was recorded. It was a fake YouTube player, which again started off with age verification, but not before you take up a survey. Help Net Security, further revealed that this scam was infecting unaware users at the rate of one user per second.

My Profile was viewed
It's quite common to have the urge and curiosity to know who has been vieweing your profile on the down low. There's a scam just fo this, too. Surprisingly, this one still continues to hit the Facebook platform in different forms and has been around since 2010. ‘Woah! My Profile Was Viewed (number) Times Just Today’ has been making the rounds. It even further states, ‘I can see that I have quite a few stalkers LOL! Find out yours here [link].' The link takes you to a login screen and once you click on it, the Facebook page asks for permission  to access your private data. The actual motive of the scam, whether a survey or acces to private information, is unclear yet. However, one should avoid any link that lets them discover who has been viewing your profile or that asks you to allow access to your data.
Yet another survey scam (Image Credit: Facecrooks)
Yet another survey scam (Image Credit: Facecrooks)

Basically, scammers earn their buck using such underhanded gimmicks. They get a commission for each completed survey, says Sophos. A few other such links include “Dad Drops His Daughter to Try to Catch A Baseball on LIVE TV!”, which went viral with a Facebook page taking you to the link of the video, which doesn't show up until you fill in a survey. This girl will never forget to turn her webcam off again and [Phishing Alert] Bogus Alerts from Facebook security were also among the several Facebook hoaxes that reached the platform this year.

It isn't just about surveys, your valued information could be misused for criminal actions too and there could be instances that could lead to identity theft. it is necessary that you don't fall victim to such traps.

Tips to avoid falling victim to scams
  • Always be alert while clicking on a link (even if sent by a friend), especially if it has suggestive images, free gifts or asking you send some money (like the Western Union Facebook scam).
  • Always delete a suspicious post from your Wall.
  • Always report spam/abuse, once you know a post isn't genuine.
  • Alert Facebook security.
  • Facebook scams have a typical style of alluring users. Beware of posts that begin with OMG!, WTF!, Win and so on.
  • Beware of links/posts that are suddenly posted by most of your friends, they too could be malacious.

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