This is a guest article written by Rebecca Moran. The author’s views are entirely her own and may not reflect the views of IT Governance.
You have probably seen lots of Facebook pictures or memes that ask you to type a number to “reveal the magic” of the picture, or to type “Amen” to wish a sick child well. A huge portion of these social media posts are designed to harvest or farm your ‘likes’ and ‘shares’.
So what does like farming mean? What’s the gain?
Simple – money.
A scammer will set up a Facebook page, they will fill it with pictures that play on the heart strings of those who are kind and thoughtful, they will depict an abused dog or a disabled child and they will ask you to ‘like’ or ‘share’ the post to wish the subject of the picture well. Once their page has received thousands of ‘likes’ the page will be sold to marketers or ads placed on the page to beam out to the thousands of users already signed up as fans. It’s a quick and savage way of gaining a large audience… and most are unaware that they are feeding into this scam.
Facebook uses a ‘like algorithm’ to determine if content is of value to users. The more likes and shares you get on a post, the higher your post and profile are ranked – this results in being exposed to even more users.
Of course, pages like this are against Facebook rules and if found out or reported the pages are immediately removed. The problem is that there aren’t enough people who are aware of what’s really happening – they have ‘liked’ a picture to wish the subject well, or typed ‘Amen’ in the hope that their prayers will somehow reach a person in need. So, who is there to report these pages? Only those who know what this is all about. I am hoping that by reading this article, you will be one of those people.
Facebook users are mostly unaware that not only are they personally feeding into these money spinners, but they are spreading it around for the scammer, too. Just liking a post will have it appear on your friend’s homepage, when they like it, it then gets shared to their friends, and so on. These scammers are sitting back and letting YOU do all the leg work for them while they line their pockets with your well wishes.
There are websites that have been set up to pay scammers for their like and share pages, and they, too, are making a small fortune from this type of scam.
So, how do you kind-hearted folk spot these types of scams?
Easy: before you like or share a post, check it out, do a bit of research. There are websites such as hoaxslayer.com or snopes.com that investigate and reveal scams for exactly what they are. But don’t forget, it’s not just posts of sick children and animals that are used for this purpose, stories about gangs that use a baby’s bloodied car seat to lure women from their vehicles for malicious purposes, or the other one about credit cards being laced with a drug called ‘Burundanga’ to knock women out for the purpose of rape – these are false stories, all designed by sick individuals to get social media to share the posts for their own monetary gain. And you’re sharing them because you think you are genuinely warning people about these awful risks; these posts prey on your good nature. They spread falsities and quite often use pictures they don’t have permission to use. After all, who would gladly hand over a picture of their sick child so a scammer can make a few quid?
If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution, then make it this: resolve to question everything you are shown on social media; stop and think – is your like or share funding a scammer? Where you find a scammer page, report it. Teach your children, teach your grandma – let them know what their “likes and shares” really mean.
These scammers need to be shut down but it will never happen unless everyone is aware and doing their bit.
Make 2016 the year you do your bit.
While social media can provide many benefits to your organisation, it’s vital that you ensure your employees are aware of the threats it also poses. If you struggle to keep track of how social media is used in your organisation, you need the Social Media Governance Toolkit.
Social Media Governance Toolkit contains templates and guidance for creating a social media strategy, developing policy, assigning roles and responsibilities, managing related risks, and measuring and monitoring outcomes.