With this kind of virality, it’s little wonder a 2016 report from Cisco found that Facebook scams are the most common online attack method used by cybercriminals. With 1.6 billion users, the social media site serves as a cost-effective way of spreading scams on a large scale quickly and relatively easily.
To help you stay ahead of the bad guys, we’ve assembled a list of the top types of (often overlapping) scams to look out for on Facebook:
Sensational news stories
These have clickbait headlines to tempt you into clicking without first verifying the news. The problem is that they can lead to websites with viruses, ransomware, and other forms of malicious content and advertising. But the good news is that Facebook has made a lot of progress in preventing these kinds of posts from appearing in your News Feed.
An extension of clickbait headlines are sites that require you to enter details before certain content will be "revealed". For instance, before a juicy celebrity video shows or the answer to a self-assessment quiz displays, you must enter an email address or agree to terms and conditions. This is simply a sneaky way for scammers to capture your information.
This occurs when a page is set up by scammers with the purpose of artificially accumulating likes. This is so they can use the large number of likes to distribute additional scams or sell the page on the black market for profit (pages like these are highly valuable to unethical marketers). So think twice when you see one of those adorable cat memes – the source could be a scammer who’s hoping it’ll go viral for their benefit.
Quizzes that promise a prize or gift voucher
If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. These kinds of quizzes are designed to phish for your personal details or have you fill in surveys that the scammers get paid for you to complete! You definitely won’t win a free business class air ticket or $100 grocery voucher.
Some third-party Facebook applications require you to grant unnecessary permissions, including access to your name, profile picture, list of friends, history of posts, and the devices you use. The terms and conditions you accept could even enable a scammer to sell your data or post directly to your timeline. "See who's viewing your profile" is a classic example of an app created specifically for this (while Linkedin provides such functionality, Facebook currently doesn't).
Questionable private messages
These are likely to include social engineering schemes, such as offers to work from home. They may even claim you've "won" a lottery; then ask for a small advanced fee so you can claim your prize. Hint: your prize will never be delivered!
So what can you do to protect yourself?
Take note of the Facebook scams we've mentioned above, and always:
- Be vigilant when it comes to entering any form of personal information online
- Don't share clickbaiting stories, memes, or videos
- Install apps only from trusted developers that don't ask for a stack of unnecessary permissions
- Watch for strange posts and pages from friends – avoid clicking on them and then let your friend know that it's likely a scam
- Don't respond to messages from people you don't know, especially when they include offers that sound too good to be true