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Wouldn’t you like to receive gifts and discounts all the time? We all would!

The reality is that our human love of gifts and discounts and deals is something cybercriminals find easy to exploit. Our human curiosity is another.

Bad actors have been exploiting both for some time now, by “spreading” free wins and catchy content online almost on a weekly basis. Facebook is a constant target, as it is always buzzing with news and human interaction. However, as it turns out, to claim the win or see the alluring video/picture/piece of news, you must fill in an online survey of some kind – a phony survey aiming for your personal details and putting your security at risk. Only then do you get the promised gift or deal (except you likely won’t get anything at all except a looming sense of dread).

The anatomy of a Facebook survey scam

Facebook survey scammers typically follow this path: expose a catchy message, spread the message, capture participants, and finally hit the jackpot when your internet security is breached successfully. To what end? Earning money, of course! That’s right – the scammers earn their money by getting YOU to participate in their nefarious scheme.

  1. Exposure. The first step in a typical Facebook survey scam is sharing malicious links on Facebook walls, accompanied by enticing messages. These messages exploit human emotions. Cyber criminals rely heavily on emotions to bring down your internet security. And what better place to do that than Facebook? Typically, there are four kinds of messages, leveraging excitement, human suffering, and/or curiosity:
    • Free products or gift cards: “Check this out! You get a FREE iPad”, “$500 Victoria’s Secret gift card”.
    • Exclusive news about celebrities and world events: “OMG! Justin B hits Girl for NO Reason!”, “Japan Tsunami sucks in WHOLE village!”, “BBC News – Osama bin Laden Killed (LIVE VIDEO)”.
    • Sensational content (article, video, photo) about some extraordinary facts: “OMG! You have to see this…”, “This status got this girl expelled…”
    • New Facebook features: “See who’s viewed your profile/who stalks you on Facebook”.
  1. Diffusion. Once the message gets your attention, you’re tempted to click on the link to see the video/photo, benefit from the gift or make use of the fake Facebook feature. In order to do so, you’re asked to share/like/comment on the link or the page it leads to or install a Facebook app/download a file. Behind some of the links there’s malware and once you click on them, malicious code starts sending the message to your friends or posts it on your wall – that’s clickjacking. In case you install the fake Facebook app, this may automatically start to share the scam from your account. This way, not only your internet security and privacy are compromised but those of your friends as well.
  1. Jackpot. The last step you must take to claim what’s been promised to you is to fill in a survey. What you don’t know is that every time a victim completes a survey, scammers get paid. They usually claim you must complete the survey as an antispam measure or to prove that you are human. Later, the information you give in can be used by marketers, hackers, or identity thieves.

Unfortunately, there’s no internet security police department to watch your back. But there are ways to avoid falling for such internet security scams.

How to avoid/ “clean up” after Facebook survey scams:
  • If you see exhilarating words such as “OMG”, “Amazing”, “Shocking” on your friends’ wall, ignore the messages and the content they promote. Also, if you see grammar errors, misspelled words, and punctuation in them, you may be dealing with a survey scam. (Unless, of course, you know that friend isn’t a particularly good speller.)
  • If a Facebook survey asks you for sensitive information such as phone number, address, full name, there’s a good chance it’s a scam survey. Avoid it, for your own internet security and privacy of your data. Also, if you’ve downloaded an app, remove it from your account.
  • It’s best you have safe browsing technology installed on your computer, to flag all safe links/websites on your Facebook Wall.
  • If, unwittingly, you’ve shared, liked, or commented on a message with a link to a survey scam, go to your profile, locate the Share/Like/Comment, and delete it. You don’t want your friends to fall for the scam.

If you’ve downloaded files to your computer, then use an effective antivirus and run a full system scan.

Facebook provides a target-rich environment for scammers, whether it’s this type of survey scam or other scams designed to get you to give up security information (more on that in a separate post).

The Bottom Line

Be vigilant. Before clicking on ANYTHING, do your best to make sure it is legitimate. That could mean checking the link for “typos” (e.g. amazn.com or amazon.com or amazoncom.com). It could also mean opening a search engine and asking it “is Amazon really giving away $500 gift cards for sharing links on Facebook?” Look carefully at anything that seems TOO good – does some RV company REALLY have five RVs to give away? Really?

You don’t want to be a clicker or a sharer of content that could end up hurting you or the people on your friends list – and the people on their friends list, and the people…