Social network phishing

I read an article the other day about Tweets promising free Twitter followers being a phishing scam.

I’d go into details, but it’s the same old story: you click on a link, which takes you to a website that asks for your Twitter username and password. Once the phishermen have this information, they lock you out of your own account and use it to perpetuate the phishing attack or to drive people to other scam websites. The same thing happens on Facebook. When one of your friends suddenly can’t seem to write in coherent language and starts shouting about some iffy product or cheap prescription drugs, that’s a sure sign of a phishing victim.

The thing that bothers me is how well it seems to be working. Why so much emphasis on increasing your Twitter followers?

If you’re a celebrity, I can understand why you’d end up with over a million followers just on the basis of  who you are. If you have a proactive sort of agent, you might even be encouraged to look at your number of followers as a metric of how much “star power” you’ve got.

If you work in the marketing department of a company and have spent six months convincing management that the company really needs a Twitter account, I can understand the desire to get as many followers as possible in a short amount of time.

However, if you’re just somebody who uses Twitter as a communication tool, what reason is there (beyond your ego) for thinking you need to add a hundred random followers (and subsequently falling for this scam)? Unless you’re doing something interesting on the site (telling us what your cat is doing is not one of them), I can’t think of any. For the 99% of us who are “just sorta there,” is there really any advantage to having scads of followers?

You might think this is going to lead into, “What’s the whole point of Twitter, and why don’t you just go outside for once?” but I’ll resist the temptation. Twitter’s neat, and I see the appeal. However, AOL was pretty neat at one time, too.

So have at it—use Twitter. Complain about the cruddy customer service at a store and see how scary-quick they respond to you. See what Pee-Wee Herman and LeVar Burton are up to. But never click on those “add more followers” links, and never, never, ever enter your username and password on a website other than the real Twitter page.

And go outside now and then.

Couldn’t resist.