Browse Definitions:

Facebook scam

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A Facebook scam is a post or page on the popular social networking site designed to deceive users and spread rapidly through their personal networks. Scams are sometimes created for identity theft or to spread malware but the usual purpose is financial gain – the more frequently a post is liked and shared, the more money the scammer makes.

Scam pages are designed to compel users to click the Like button, leave comments or share posts, usually by appealing to people’s curiosity, greed or compassion. In one common type of hoax, the scammer creates a page for the (supposed) benefit of a sick child and posts a picture claiming that, for example,  Facebook will donate $1 towards a needed operation for every “Like” the page gets.

Once the page gets enough “Likes,” the scammer can sell it to someone who will  change page details and instantly have a high-ranking page for their business. The high-ranking page will appear more prominently in people’s Facebook news feeds. Depending on the numbers of Likes and followers, Facebook fan pages can be sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Given the negligible effort required to create a Facebook page, hoaxes can be very lucrative for the scammer.

Some other common Facebook hoaxes and scams:

  • Gift card giveaways, such as a claim that Starbucks is giving out $50 cards.
  • Fake Amber Alerts claiming that a child was abducted and appealing to users to share the message to aid in the search.
  • Product giveaways  (offers of free iPads are very common).
  • Posts that ask the user to click “Like,” share, and type something in the comments to “see what happens” (nothing).
  • Warnings related to Facebook’s privacy rules that compel  users to make unnecessary and counterproductive changes to their settings.
  • Fake contests, which often appeal to people that aren’t likely to believe any business is giving away money or products.

To avoid getting fooled – and possibly worse – avoid Liking and sharing posts that you aren’t sure of. If you’d like to check out a posts authenticity, just copy some identifying text and paste it into a search engine along with the word “hoax” or “scam.”

In this video, Phil Bradley explains Facebook scams:

See also: disinformation, linkbaiting, likebaiting, likejacking, clickjacking, sock puppet, sock puppet marketing, astroturfing

This was last updated in October 2013

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