For Consumer

Fake Social Media Promotions Lead to Real Losses

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Holiday 2011 — Security News and Advice


Social media sites are great places for companies large and small to create targeted promotions. But unfortunately, they are also great places for scammers to post phony promotions aimed at grabbing your information and money.

This past summer, cybercriminals distributed a fake promotion for a $25 iTunes gift card. It asked users to click on a Facebook post and the link that took them to a scam page. The posts appear to be from friends but are actually spam messages distributed through malicious code. Once you click on the link and arrive at the scam page, you are asked to “share” the promotion by clicking on a “like” button that automatically posts to your Wall with the scam. You are then offered a choice of surveys that ask for your personal information. Your information is subsequently passed along to spam lists.

A similar scam recently occurred with Southwest Airlines. The cybercriminals disguised the scam as a Facebook post reading, “I love Southwest.” Users were asked to click on the link to claim free tickets. However, once they clicked, they were asked to take various surveys, as well as sign-up for free trials of other products. Like in the case of the fake iTunes promotion, victims were spammed with emails, texts and phone calls and their personal information was compromised.

So how can you tell a legitimate social media promotion from a fake one? Here are some tips to help you identify these promotional scams:

  • Be wary of promotions where you are asked to “like” a post to enter to win. Many companies don’t follow Facebook’s guidelines,that they are not allowed to ask users to “like” a post, comment on a post or upload a photo to enter a contest.
  • If you get a Facebook message saying that you have won a contest, it’s highly likely this is a scam, especially if you have not entered any contest. Facebook guidelines prohibit companies from notifying winners by sending messages to their Facebook inboxes, or by posting messages to users’ profile pages.
  • If a Facebook ad includes a price, discount, or “free” offer, the ad must link directly to a page explaining the offer. If you click on an ad and it takes you elsewhere, such as to a survey, be very cautious.
  • If you click on a promotional banner and it takes you to a third-party site that asks for personal information, be very wary. Check the company’s official website to see if the promotion is legitimate. However, keep in mind that some promotions are for social media sites only and the company’s official website may not mention it.
  • Be cautious when giving third-party applications complete access to your Facebook profile.
  • If the offer sounds too good to be true–like receiving two free airline tickets for clicking on a link–it probably is. Also, be suspicious of any promotions that make you do a lot of work, like fill out surveys and third-party offers for little in return.

If you do fall for one of these promotional scams here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Make sure to change your social networking site password.
  • Delete any dangerous applications and posts related to the scam.
  • Report the scam to the social media site.
  • Finally, warn your friends so they know not to click on any dangerous links that may appear to be coming from you.

The best way to help yourself avoid these types of scams is to be cautious and continue to educate yourself on all the methods the scammers use to trick you.


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