I just saw a Facebook post where if you Like a page, you’re entered in a drawing to win a free Playstation 4! Apparently they accidentally opened 250 boxes and have to give them all away now.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
That’s because it is.
Here’s the deal:
Facebook and other social media sites are popular ways to advertise a company, product, or service. Anyone can make a Facebook “fan”-style page for just about anything. We even have our own if you haven’t visited it already. It takes minutes to set a Facebook fan-page up. You can register a practically unlimited number of these pages for free.
As it turns out, if someone Likes a Facebook fan page, they’ll receive periodic updates from that page. What better way to keep up with your favorite celebrity, video game, or conspiracy-debunking-pseudoscience-fighting-badger-themed website??
Facebook has become a billion dollar company primarily through advertising. Product manufacturers, bloggers, and artists all want to show off what they have to offer. Many books have recommended product give-aways in viral marketing. That is a fairly legitimate way to get people to pay attention to you. These books suggest giving away an e-book or product sample as part of a marketing campaign. What about giving away 250 PS4s? Why would someone post about giving away tens of thousands of dollars of products? Where’s the profit in that?
There’s a dark side to this marketing thing. Someone realized that if you want to easily market to millions of people for free and spam isn’t working, why not hit people on social media? Enter two new players to the game: Like Farms and Like Scams.
Like Farms are where you pay to have thousands of fake accounts simultaneously Like a Facebook page. This makes the page look much more legitimate. If someone sees a website only has a few hundred Likes, they’ll be less likely to pay attention to what that page has to say. Many places use this to artificially boost their numbers. Even politicians do it! (For the record, I never have and never will engage in this tactic).
Like Scams are what you see an example of above. Some bogus message is shared about winning iPads, PS4s, whatever. People are told to Like the page, Share it, Comment, etc. This can quickly amass hundreds of thousands of Likes. At this point, the page owner auctions the fanpage off on the Darknet (going rate is a few dollars per thousand Likes). The new owner now has a million people they can spam with messages via Facebook. Some may just try to get traffic to a product website selling knockoffs or whatever. Some might try fraudulent websites to steal credit card data. Some particularly malicious buyers may send out messages that direct the user to malware-containing websites. The user is infected with a virus which can lead to all sorts of particularly nasty consequences. Furthermore, Liking a page will make it show up to your Facebook friends which allows it to rope in even more victims.
The next time you think “What if this is real? I’ll Share it just in case…” try to remember this article.