Be skeptical to avoid these common Facebook scams: Internet Scambusters #639
Security researchers claim there have been at least 850,000 Facebook scams -- and the list is still growing.
In this week's issue, we identify the 10 most common scams doing the rounds right now and urge you to be both skeptical and vigilant to beat the tricksters.
We also have a warning from the FBI about a dangerous and costly new outbreak of ransomware.
Now, here we go...
The Top 10 Facebook Scams
It's virtually impossible these days to avoid encountering a Facebook scam if you're a user of the popular social networking site.
Most of us see them and give them a wide berth but thousands of people actually fall victim every day.
By far the most common is the free giveaway scam in which users are tricked into believing they'll be entered for a big prize draw in return for "liking" or sharing a page or promotion.
The prizes -- usually cars or trips to exotic destination -- don't exist but the name of the victim is added to the scammer's list of followers, which he subsequently sells for spamming and dubious marketing activities.
We've written about this and many other Facebook scams previously...
... but the list of tricks is ever-changing, although some oldies continue to persist. So this week we're giving you a rundown of what are currently the 10 most common ones.
The first five come from a two-year study of over 850,000 Facebook scams -- yes, you read that right: 850,000 scams -- by Internet security group Bitdefender.
1. Guess who viewed your profile -- A false claim that an app, often called "WhoViews," will show you who's viewed your Facebook profile, but it actually installs a spying and spamming virus on your PC.
2. Explicit photos or videos of friends -- Victims who click on supplied links are told they need to update their Adobe Flash viewer but they actually install malware.
3. Ads for fake products and services -- Bitdefender identified 50,000 questionable domains supposedly selling pharmaceuticals and dating services. A third of the sites were also bogus replicas of genuine pages, used for phony sales or phishing for personal info.
4. Morbid images -- A faked video supposedly of a woman being beaten to death is being used to attract victims to gruesome sites that either charge fees or install malware. Another recent fake video claims to show a woman being killed by her husband.
Sadly, Bitdefender predicts big growth in this category as a means of grabbing attention for all sorts of dubious marketing purposes, notably because of children's increased tolerance of violent images.
5. Funny videos -- This is a variation on No. 2 above, though it doesn't claim to show friends, just people in embarrassing situations. Again, this is a ruse to get victims to install a special video player that is really malware.
A variation claims to link to explicit photos and videos of well-known celebrities -- most recently Harry Potter star, Emma Watson.
To this list, we're adding five more scams that are currently making the rounds:
6. A link to what purports to be the "10 Hottest Leaked Snapchats Ever." For those who don't know, Snapchat is an instant photo messaging service owned by Facebook; this scam leads to a malware download.
7. The big prize giveaway -- This is the one we started this issue with. Most common recent bait includes a Disney-related prize and an SUV or luxury vehicle. Some current scam pages have upwards of 60,000 "fans."
The pages are then renamed and used to bombard fans with spam-type advertising either from the original scammer or whomever they sold it to.
8. Danger targets -- Scammers use "Yard Sale" and similar pages on Facebook to lure victims to specific locations where they may be robbed or assaulted.
In one recent incident in Lexington, KY, a couple responded to an ad supposedly offering a cell phone for sale. Instead, they were robbed and shot at by the bogus vendor in a parking lot.
9. Facebook identity theft -- In this scam, crooks hack and clone a victim's page and pose as them. Then they try to scam money out of the victim's friends, usually by claiming to be in financial trouble.
10. A change of color -- This one has been around for a while but is still going strong. Quite simply, it claims that an app can change the color of Facebook profiles from the default blue. It asks users to provide their sign-on details, which, of course, are then use to hack the victim's account.
So what can you do to avoid these scams?
Facebook recently announced a new drive to clamp down on scammers by reducing the incidence of fake videos and news stories.
So that's a step in the right direction.
But the fact is that crooks will continue to add to those 850,000 Facebook scams that Bitdefender found and the only way you can truly avoid them is by being VERY careful about clicking on links and practicing extreme skepticism.
Alert of the week
The FBI warns of a vicious new ransomware scam that will lock up your PC and every hard drive attached to it -- and then demand up to $5,000 to unlock them, using the Bitcoin virtual currency, which is untraceable.
The scam even includes detailed instructions on how to buy and use Bitcoins, and it features a countdown clock to show victims how long they have to pay up or face permanent data destruction.
There's no guarantee you'll get it back even if you pay.
Solution: Back up your data every day. It's the only way to guarantee recovery.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!