Fight Facebook Fraud

Tips to keep your online life safe and secure
by: Steve Morgenstern | from: AARP | May 5, 2011

I recently found a post from a friend in my Facebook News Feed, excitedly announcing free dinners at Olive Garden and with a convenient link to click. Something didn’t smell right, though, and it wasn’t the pasta Primavera. My friend is a fervent foodie who wouldn’t eat a free meal at Olive Garden if you paid her. Sure enough, it was a hoax designed to lure me into giving up my personal info and urge other friends to follow suit.

A woman using a notebook computer looks at a Facebook page.Facebook users need to know what to avoid and how to keep up on the latest scams. — Peter Alvey People/Alamy

There’s an absolute flood of fraud on Facebook lately, and the most distressing part is that the invitations usually seem to come from people you know and trust. Some of these scams simply lead to online surveys that pay the perpetrator for each respondent, but others can take you to pages that install viruses and malware on your computer. It’s up to Facebook users to understand what to avoid and how to keep up on the latest shenanigans.

Spotting Scams

Sometimes, as with the Olive Garden example above, a fraudulent Facebook post will offer a freebie, or a chance to win a prize. Others offer surveys and polls. Soon after the Japanese tsunami tragedy, bogus opportunities to help started appearing on Facebook — clearly there’s no honor among thieves. Another recent post offered to show you who’s been looking at your Facebook profile, which sounds interesting and perfectly innocent — but if you actually click the link, you found instructions that make your Facebook account vulnerable to hackers if followed.

And sometimes the offers are a bit less innocent, with headlines like “The beautiful Marika Fruscio shows her breasts on Italian TV” next to an image with a clickable Play button. Click on it and you visit a site that not only tries to extract personal information but also posts the same link to your own wall, so all your friends can see what a perv you are.

News posts aren’t the only Facebook feature used to sucker you. Some scams pose as event invitations, or messages apparently from Facebook friends. You may receive a fake email, apparently from Facebook, threatening to close your account if you don’t follow the link provided. There are even scams that use live Facebook chat, with the person on the other end of the conversation claiming to be a personal acquaintance who’s traveling, experiencing an emergency and needs you to send money immediately.

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