A brief list of things you’re not getting simply for liking a page on Facebook

fb-scams-neonSeveral times a month, I hear about a new scam making the Facebook rounds. Inevitably, they all seem to involve the same pattern: this company is giving away a free gift card (or item) to everyone on Facebook if they like this page!

I don’t always write a new article about it because I would just end up with a template; “There’s a new scam on Facebook, claiming that ____ is giving away $_____ gift cards for liking a page. Don’t do it.” I’d rather just talk about the principle than rehash the specifics every single time.

For one thing, think about the numbers: Ikea is giving away $1,000 gift cards to everyone on Facebook? There are 800 million people on Facebook. That means their budget for this one promotion would be $800 billion. Ikea’s profits in 2010 were “only” 2.7 billion. Heck, the entire GDP of Sweden was $338 billion last year.

But, just in case you’d like a few examples of things you’re not going to get for free just for clicking “like” on a page, here’s a brief list:

  • $100 Costco gift card
  • $1,000 Ikea gift card
  • Amazon.com gift card
  • $100 KFC gift card
  • $1,000 Walmart gift card
  • Free iPad2
  • $50 Starbucks gift card
  • $25 iTunes gift card
  • A free gift card in any amount, or a free trendy high-tech device, from any retailer in the entire Universe, including all possible parallel Universes and/or dimensions, from now until the very end of Time itself (and in all future incarnations thereof if it turns out Time is cyclical and is repeated on a Cosmic infinite loop of some kind), ever, just for “liking” page on Facebook. This includes if you find yourself in a whimsical land of magic and wonder after chasing a white rabbit down a hole, or after hiding in a wardrobe and ending up in a forest and being greeted by the Faun Tumnus.

That last one is a little more general.

The point is: these are scams. They always have been, and they always will be. Don’t “like” the pages, don’t even visit the pages. If you’ve got friends who keep falling for this stuff, tell them it’s a scam. Every single time if you have to. A little public shaming can go a long way.

Facebook Scams: They’re after your children

Facebook scams involving pop culture icons are nothing new.

How many people clicked on a link promising a video of Justin Bieber behaving badly, only to end up on a bogus survey site and spread the disease to all their friends when the malicious site forced them to “like” the video (sight unseen because there was no video) to proceed? At some point, the victim is asked to reveal their phone number, which causes about $30 worth of premium-rate services to show up on their phone bill.

There was another one that promised advance movie tickets to one of the Harry Potter sequels. Same deal: bogus survey site. Now there’s one that promises tickets to a Twilight sequel that isn’t even coming out for over a year. Betcha can’t guess what it leads to.

Think about who these con artists are targeting.

They’re not targeting me. I don’t care how Justin Bieber is behaving. I’m a cranky music nerd in my mid-30s; I already suspect Bieber of evil just by the mere fact that his music exists (although if you slow it down 800%, it’s absolutely gorgeous—is this what it sounds like to 11 year old girls?).

No, they’re targeting your kids. I know that generalizations are bad, but I also know that billions are spent each year on marketing and demographics research. Check it out:

  1. Who are the people, by gender and age, who really care about the next Twilight move?
  2. Are these people “heavy” or “rare” Facebook users?
  3. Given their age, are they more or less likely to be somewhat impulsive and easily swayed by a Facebook friend’s “like?”
  4. Do they tend to have cellular phones or not?

It’s a perfect storm; if they only snag 1% of teenage girls who use Facebook, are into Twilight and have cell phones, that’s about fifty gazillion scam victims right there. At $30 per fraudulent cell phone charge, we’re talking some serious coin.

The key is to somehow get your kids to understand what a Facebook scam looks like. What’s okay to click on? What’s not? How do you impress upon them to never, ever give out their phone number (or other personal information) to a website?

Facebook recently (and finally) released a guide to using the site safely. You can download it here: Own Your Space: A Facebook Guide to Security. I applaud the company for, at long last, finally admitting that their site is not totally safe to just blindly click on everything that shows up on your page.

The guide claims to be “For Young Adults, Parents and Educators,” but I doubt many teens are going to read anything that begins with the sentence, “If there was any doubt on the incredible power of social networking, consider the more than one billion pieces of content shared each day with over half a billion users.” I’m about to fall asleep just pasting that, and I have a degree in English Literature; long, dull treatises were a daily encounter at one point in my life .

No, this thing was written for adults, and there’s some really good information within. Download it and read it yourself, then talk to your kids. I suppose the best way to really learn the ropes is to join the site yourself, but at the very least, talk to them about security on a regular basis. And make sure they know there are no free movie tickets.

You’re not getting a free iPad. Nobody is getting a free iPad.

Facebook and Twitter are, once again, just lousy with a new scam. This time it involves Apple’s latest device, the iPad.

The iPad is…well, I guess it’s sort of like a giant iPhone, except you can’t make phone calls on it. It’s one of a new category of devices called “tablet computers.”

Personally, I think they’re sort of dumb. They might be good if you’re solely a consumer of content, but they seem limited if you’re actually creating content (video, music, writing, etc.).

I’m sure it will be a big hit anyway; there is a very large, dedicated population that answer “Strongly Agree” to the survey question, “I will always buy any new product Apple releases.” Maybe I’m just not hip enough to get it. I don’t look anything like the people in Apple commercials.

However, since this object has a huge buzz surrounding it, there are already a thousand “Free iPad” scams popping up, many on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I just did a search on “Free iPad” on Twitter, and there are several new scam messages being posted every minute.

The thing is, this whole scenario seems really familiar. In fact, it’s just one letter away from the “Free iPod” scams that were all over the Internet seven or eight years ago. The only difference is that Facebook and Twitter didn’t even exist back then. The opportunity for scammers to spread their message has grown exponentially—in 2002, they mostly relied on popup advertisements and spam email.

Oh, you say the link took you to a Facebook fan page with thousands of comments from people who claim to have received a free iPad?

Those are fake. It is so extremely easy to create fake positive comments from fake users. You have to just ignore this garbage, no matter how realistic the offer may seem.

For one thing, the iPad hasn’t even been released yet. So there’s no way all these people on Twitter posting “Just playing with Ashley’s new ipad. It was free just for giving an email address at this website” are telling the truth. I’m guessing a lot of these are hacked accounts, but many of them have usernames that follow a specific pattern, which means the accounts were created solely for running a scam. The thing is, even if you know an Ashley and someone you know and follow on Twitter posts this message, ignore it. Tell your friend they’ve been hacked, though.

I’m not sure what happens if you follow the links in these messages. According to what I’ve read, many ask you for a cellular phone number, and then sign you up for a $40/month “service.”

The service? Taking $40/month away from you. I’m sure there are others that take you to infected sites that load your computer up with malware.

The bottom line here is this: nobody is giving away free iPads. Apple doesn’t send thousands of free anything to random people for evaluation. There’s still this lingering myth that the Internet is full of offers like that (“Git on the Innernet n’ you get all kindsa free stuff!”), and I’m not sure where it comes from. It’s not true and it never has been. I’ve been using the Internet since around 1994 and I’ve never once seen a legitimate offer.

Apple is a company that has a singular vision; they already know what their audience wants. Testing is done in-house, not by sending out millions of dollars worth of product for free. By the time it’s at the booth at the Consumer Electronics Show, it’s been tested a million times by people the company knows.

Want one? Cough up.