Sunday 25 October 2015

Anatomy of a Like and Share Scam

There are many of these scams on Facebook. Fortunately, I don't come across them very often (most people I know are fairly sensible) but on the occasions I do I tend to be proactive about warning friends.

We've all seen it before - the offer that seems too good to be true. A major airline is offering free flights (or even free holidays) to amazing destinations to a few lucky people. All you have to do is to like and share their facebook page.

If you clicked share then I have some bad news for you - you're a "mark". There are no free flichts, the page you shared is not affiliated with the airline and you've just fallen for a "like and share scam". How does this work? It's simple. By liking and sharing a facebook page, you're making it look popular. This makes it a valuable commodity. The "like farmers" simply sell the page once they get enough likes/shares. Sophos have written extensively about this kind of scam:

So how can you tell it's a scam? Simple, lets look an an example I recently came across:

Wow! A free holiday? First class tickets? Where do I sign up?

Upon closer inspection, is this an airline? Why does it say community? And what's with that abbreviated name?
A company listed as a community, a sure warning sign
Fake pages like this are often listed as "Community" or other vague categories and have a shortened version of the actual company name. See above, "Emirates Air." is a "Community". This is a good warning sign that you're on a fake page. Here is the real Emirates page:
Check for pages that have been verified
As you can see above, the real page has been verified by facebook. Look out for the tick.

Next, we have a strangely convoluted URL
Page names with lots of random letters and numbers, a good warning sign
In comparison, the real Emirates page has a much more elegant URL

The number of posts can also be a good warning sign. The fake page has a single post (promoting the free flights offer) and was dated 16 hours ago. I'm pretty sure that a world class airline like Emirates probably won't be new to marketing through social media.
While we're on the topic of that one post, why is it a "life event"?

Anyway, the real page has far more posts than that.

Another useful thing to look for are whether an official website is listed. In the fake example, The About text includes only the "offer" (and a "helpful" reminder that it's a limited time offer!). Be suspicious when an "ask for their website" link appears there. Surely Emirates have their own website?
No website?

So there you have it, a few simple things to look for when you come across a page on Facebook purporting to offer a once in a lifetime opportunity. I've seen this scam target several well known airlines (Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and Southwest) and several well known brands (such as free Apple products).

So remember these simple tips and think before you share. Remember, falling for a scam like that could lead to you being targeted by other scammers (such as phishing for banking details) by being added to a "suckers list"

Be safe online