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.