One for the kids and one for the seniors

Here’s a new scam that targets kids:

Among fans of Justin Bieber, getting the popstar to follow you on Twitter is apparently a badge of extreme OMG-ness, which means it was inevitable that a scam would surface exploiting the fact.

If you even mention the star on Twitter, there is a good chance someone will direct message you with a URL that supposedly reveals a surefire way to get the star to follow you back. It then leads you to a site that requires a cell phone number and for the victim to take yet another bogus IQ test.

What happens next: the victim’s phone is charged $10-$20 per month for some lame premium service, and Justin doesn’t follow them at all.

As of the latest reports, the original scam site had been shut down, but it won’t be long before it resurfaces. Warn the kids: anyone on Twitter that tells you they have a way to get a star to follow them back is leading them into a scam. Also, in a year when there’s some new pop culture obsession, just take out the words “Justin Bieber” and fill it in with the Current Big Thing, and repeat the warning.

Here’s one that targets seniors:

A guy in coveralls will hang around a parking lot and wait for an elderly person to go into the store. He’ll then dump some oil or brake fluid near the  car. When the potential victim returns, he’ll tell them he’s a mechanic and that he can fix the car. One he “fixes” the non-existent leak, he informs them he has to charge for the “service.” I would assume they get a bit aggressive if the victim refuses.

If someone in a parking lot offers you auto repairs out of the blue, politely refuse. Take your car home and park it. If there’s a (new) pool of fluid a few hours later, your car really does have a problem. Take it to a real mechanic you trust.

But there probably won’t be, because in all likelihood you were approached by a con artist.

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.