Facebook has nearly 1.6 billion monthly active users. Even if only 1% of users fall for nearly 850,000 active scams at first, that’s still 16 million users. While some scams are just hoaxes intended to make the users look foolish to their ‘friends,’ others are actually aimed at wreaking havoc in their digital space.
From click-bait headlines that lead to fake content to quizzes that trick users into sharing their personal data or downloading malware, to fraudsters pretending to be trusted brands (remember free business-class flights being given away by Qantas Air?), to pages that phish for users’ private details; these scams on the spam laden social networking site are seen as the most common and cost-effective online attack methods of compromising unwitting users with relative ease.
In 2014, a two-year study conducted by researchers at Internet security group Bitdefender revealed the five most popular Facebook scams that infected millions of well-educated and naïve users alike; according to the 2016 edition of technology firm Cisco’s Annual Security Report, they continue to trick Facebook users, even in 2016…
#1 Guess who viewed your profile? – 45.50%
The most popular Facebook scam offers inquisitive Facebook addicts the chance to check profiles that viewed their page. So, if you are trying to spy on your ex-lover, your current lover, your crush, your boss, a disgruntled friend, or someone you share a dark secret with, STOP STALKING or Get Stalked!
Is there really a way to know who actually viewed your Facebook profile? No. No app or trick can actually tell you who is looking at your timeline or how often it’s being viewed; such apps or Facebook pages are a hoax aimed at infecting you and your friends with malware. Facebook makes it clearer:
Facebook doesn’t let you track who views your profile or your posts (ex: your photos). Third-party apps are also unable to do this. If you come across an app that says it can show you who’s viewing your profile or posts, please report the app.
#2 Facebook functionality scams – 29.53%
Almost one in three scams attract users with features Facebook doesn’t have, such as dislike buttons and different timeline colors. Such scammers offer victims the option to change their Facebook layout or color, by installing a Facebook app. When unsuspecting users give the scammers access to their personal data, they unknowingly give the swindlers the license to spam and scam their friends.
#3 Giveaway scams – 16.51%
There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Bogus giveaways, including free Disneyland tickets and game points, are phishing schemes aimed to infect the bargain-hunters among Facebook’s user base. At any given time, you can win the latest iPhone, iPad, Mac or PlayStation 4 – all you need to do to become the world’s luckiest silly person; take a survey, fill your personal information online, and automatically download a malicious file onto your system.
Comparitech.com published a blog post in 2015 about a Facebook quiz called Most Used Words, which signed up more than 18 million people to terms and conditions that gave permission for their data to be sold to third parties, as well as giving the app access to their name, profile picture, age, sex, birthday, friend list, entire history of Facebook posts through to details of their IP address and device.
#4 Celebrity scams – 7.53%
Scammers use fake deaths, spicy videos and sensational stories about your favorite or not-so-favorite celebrities from their unofficial Facebook pages, enticing you to share the posts or click on the links before verifying the content. According to Bitdefender, images of Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus are used to deliver malware via fake sex tapes.
This is not all. Did you ever get a friend request from a celebrity and felt over the moon? You are not alone. This might not happen as frequently as others, but when users fall for this Facebook scam, it hits them very hard. When you make a celebrity your ‘friend,’ you are invited to donate funds to the noble causes they are attached to, by either asking your credentials or prompting you to pay using online payment services.
The only way you can truly avoid falling prey to these fake celebrities is by being extra cautious.
#5 Atrocity/Viral videos – 0.93%
To get Facebook users’ attention, scammers post links of shocking, scandalous or racy videos – which use horrendous visuals such as maimed animals, suffering children and tortured women. They then ask them to update their Adobe Flash Viewer, and install malware on their computers/mobiles.
More popular in these viral videos are salacious celebrity “videos” posted on Facebook, which aren’t videos but a link to a phishing website or a link to install an update or a plug-in. When you click on the link, the virus is automatically downloaded and installed on your system. Since the scammers can now share the scam automatically with your friends, the virus spreads.