Facebook is a powerful tool for spreading information. Thousands of posts have helped groups, families, and individuals by simply sharing information. However, not all Facebook posts are benign. While many of them may look innocent, a hidden danger lurks behind certain posts. Here are some examples of the like-farming scams that are making their rounds on Facebook and some tips on how to avoid them.
What are Like-Farming Scams and How do they Work?
There are many different types of like-farming scams but they all have something in common: the scammers will collect or sell information gathered from Facebook interactions. According to CBS News, like-farming scams draws in Facebook users and promote interaction by posting certain images that appeal to the natural psyche of human beings. The posts could be an image of a sick child, a person with a disability, a cancer patient, or a disfigured person, followed by a caption that can tear a user’s heart out.
The posts, usually illegally acquired or simply stolen for use in like-farming schemes, could be an image of a sick child, a person with a disability, a cancer patient, or a disfigured person. The Facebook post would be captioned with a phrase that could tear a user’s heart out: “People are ashamed of her disability,” “No one wished this little girl a happy birthday,” “Type Amen if you hate cancer,” “1 share = 1 prayer for this sick child,” “Don’t scroll if you have a heart,” and “Like if you think she’s beautiful.”
These are emotional pitfalls that play to the user’s natural instincts and empathy. The scammers utilize these types of posts to exploit the emotional vulnerabilities of the reader. This, in turn, lures people into hitting the “like” button or encourage Facebook users to type “Amen,” thus garnering thousands, if not millions, of Facebook interactions. The scammers then would collect and sell information about those users who interacted with the Facebook post. Also, the like-farming authors can use the acquired data to collect more personal information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.
These types of emotional exploitation schemes aren’t the only scams available on Facebook. There are other types of like-farming scams already making their rounds on Facebook such as those posts masquerading as games, brain twisters, and even some of those “which character are you in (insert tv show or movie)” games. The variations of like-farming scams are endless.
The Dangers of Typing “Amen,” Sharing, or Liking a Facebook Post
Facebook uses a certain algorithm to determine which pages to promote or which posts are more likely to appear in the users’ news feed. If a Facebook page has a huge number of interactions, chances are it will be tagged the page as “legitimate.” The number of interactions is based on “likes,” “comments,” and “shares” and users who have been ensnared by the emotional pitfalls or the tantalizing games the Facebook page posted would have, unknowingly and unwittingly, helped promote a bogus page.
Time, citing Better Business Bureau, states that the scammers use the data they collected as a gateway to obtain more information. The scammers also use the data to spam users or sell the collected information, such as name, age, and contact information, to other scammers. Sometimes, when a post has garnered a large number of interactions, the scammers would replace the original content of the page and then replace them with something else, usually to promote products.
The bait-and-switch tactics, in the case of product promotion, may be harmless but the danger comes from times when the scammers replace the original content with malicious posts, such as pornography. In line with this tactics, the scammers can also use the renovated page to spread malware or phishing viruses. These schemes have been proven to have been successful in lifting information such as credit card data.
On a personal level, once the information from a certain user has been lifted, the scammers would have the tool to stalk the user, the user’s family members, or the user’s friends. The perpetrators can keep track of their movements to directly cause harm, break into their homes, threaten loved ones and friends, or prompt them into making certain actions, such as transferring money or setting up a meeting that would lead to kidnapping or rape cases.
How to Spot a Like-farming Scam and How to Avoid Them
Some of the Facebook posts that are pleading for help are bound to be legitimate. The tricky part is distinguishing which are the real ones and which are like-farming scams. A Facebook user can avoid getting caught in the web of like-farming schemes by not interacting with a post without a legitimate source. If a Facebook posts claim that Facebook, a company, or a famous personality will donate money for a certain number of “likes,” “shares,” or “comments,” odds are the post is a scam.
The Facebook user can use Google to obtain information about the subject. If Google comes up short, users can turn to Snopes or HoaxSlayer. These websites have good track records in debunking social media scams.
If a Facebook post seemed too good to be true, such as a chance to win products or obtain certain items at a price way below the ongoing market value by just commenting or sharing a post, then it probably is a scam. Furthermore, if a Facebook post promises something in return in exchange for sharing, commenting, or liking a post, chances are it is also a scam. And if the Facebook post promotes a feeling like a user is being pressured into hitting like or commenting or sharing, then odds are it is also a like-farming scam.
The Facebook user should always be mindful – think before clicking or typing, and always check the sources cited by the Facebook page or source. If a friend on Facebook “liked” or “shared” a particular post, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is not a click-bait scam.
And lastly, Facebook users must always check their Facebook privacy settings to protect themselves. The user should also not hesitate to report a Facebook page or post if it falls into the criteria stated above.
While many people will still argue that the dangers posed by these like-farming scams are minimal and confined to the virtual world, the chances of them crossing into the real world are high. The examples stated above are only a few that have been uncovered through the years. But the danger is real and everyone on Facebook should be aware of this danger.
[Featured Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]