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Have you ever got a picture that promised to do something amazing if you just press Like? Have you been asked to press Like that in turn will donate a dollar to sick children? A promise of new iPhone as a gift for your Like? It’s probably a fraud.
Here is the classic example of this type of fraud – the attacker raises up an image, typically one that creates an optical illusion. The picture is attached with the following text: “The picture that leaves you surprised! Step 1: Click on the image. Step 2: Hit Like. Step 3: Type ‘1’ in the response field and watch an amazing result!”. Under the picture you will see some names of your friends that also “Liked” it, so apparently it seems to be legit, and because you also want to be ‘surprised’ you press Like, add the ‘1’ response and … nothing happens. Or so it seems.
The fact that you followed the instructions was actually distributing the image and the page in which it appears to all your friends, so that they in turn see the image, follow its instructions and… nothing happens for them as well.
You may say, “All right, all in all I just clicked Like, what’s the big deal?”, but the fact is that this is a fraud called “Like-Farming” that artificially increases the Likes amount of any page or post and as a result also increases the amount of users who are exposed to the fraud. This could actually affect you personally.
Apart from the example above, where users are asked to press Like and respond to an image in order to supposedly visualize something, this fraud can occur in several other forms. For example an attacker could open a “product page” in the name of a commercial company and declare any operation where the products will be given to those who press Like, just like the following that promises a new smartphone from Samsung. Needless to say, there is no giving or any lottery, it’s all part of the deception.
There is also the “Million Likes Scam” also known as “If I get to a million Likes, my parents would buy me a dog / car / vacation in the Caribbean”. While not all the “Million Likes” posts are scams, cybercriminals have not missed the trend and made sure that the posts and their fake Facebook pages receive few million Likes. Among them is the famous case of a girl named Mallory: “This is my sister Mallory. She suffers from Down syndrome and thinks she is not beautiful. Please press Like in order to show her how beautiful she really is”. Written under the image of a girl suffering from Down syndrome. But the truth is that there is no Mallory. The picture is of a girl named Katie, who suffers from Down syndrome, and has no connection to the scam that some cynical decided to use her picture in order to get more than 3.5 million Likes.
So why are the owners of these fan pages invest so much time and effort in deceptions that will cause us to click Like? The answer is of course – money.
When a Facebook page has large amount of Likes (hundreds of thousands or more) owners can start inserting advertisements to appear on your Facebook profile. These ads may also contain links to applications, games or other services for sale. This can also be a “recommendation” to an Amazon product page with a commission for every sale that comes through the link on this page. In the worst case, the owner of the page can get paid to spread malware by using links to other sites that could infect your computer with identity theft viruses. The bottom line: An access to your News Feed can be quite profitable.
But the advertisements and links is not the only way to make money by the “popular” Facebook pages. After the Facebook page manages to accumulate a fair amount of fans, it can be sold to the highest bidder. The new owner can simply change the designation of the page and distribute products to millions of fans which hit Like to something completely different.
The online message board Warriorforum.com provides a list of sites and fan pages for sale. For example you can find hamburgers fans page with almost half a million fans for the price of $5000. The hugs fans page with over a million Likes can be purchased for $7,000. Many of these ads go up and down every now and then in order that Facebook will not find them and remove the pages. For example, the TV show ‘Friends’ fans page was offered for $8,500, but is no longer listed.
Facebook’s official response is that any attempt for selling of fans pages is in contrast to the terms and may be removed if discovered that their owners are trying to sell them. But for now it looks more like a game of cat and mouse with many “Like-Farms” popping up on a daily basis.
So what can you do?
You should occasionally go over the things you’ve Liked and refresh the list. You may find that you gave your Like without your knowledge to all sorts of pages.