Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Happens When You Fall For The Free Starbucks/iPad/Anything Facebook Scam

Never a good sign when you log into Facebook and your newsfeed looks like this:

While it would be wonderful to believe that somehow, EVERY SINGLE PERSON YOU KNOW, is in on a GREAT, UNBELIEVABLE FREE DEAL, when you see this sort of thing happening, red flags should immediately go up.

First, you should be struck at how many of your friends, including people you barely know, are touting the deal. This may include people who normally don't post things at all. People who haven't posted a status update in years. Why now?

Second, look at that deal. $50! That's like 10 coffees! Unbelievable! Yes, unbelievable.

Third, look at the web address. Something odd. While they all sound, vaguely coffee-related... they're all different. And don't have that comforting ".com" address.

This is because it's a scam. Here's what happens when you click it.

First, it insists that you share the deal with all of your friends in order to "activate" the freebee. This is why you see so many people sharing the link. This step comes before people may realize things are amiss. Sheeple! Bah bah!

Then, it leads to a site that asks you to take a survey. This site surreptitiously loads tracking software onto your computer (most browsers will not warn you about this). It does this EVEN IF YOU DON'T FILL OUT THE SURVEY. From this moment on, any move you make online will be tracked by whomever created the survey page. And guess what, it wasn't Starbucks.

The survey will ask for personal information. This information is used to figure out how old you are, where you live, what your email address is, what your passwords are, what credit cards and banks you use... etc. With this full portrait, some guy in Nigeria, or elsewhere, can easily impersonate you online. They may use your information to hack into your email and accounts, steal money from you and the people you know.

If you clicked on the link:
1. Immediately clear your cookies and internet cache.

2. Run a (reliable) anti virus program to make sure your computer hasn't been infected with malware (bad software).

3. Then change your Facebook password, email password, and any other passwords you believe may have been compromised (any site you visited after clicking the link).

4. Finally, warn others that the link is indeed a scam. Report it to Facebook.

In the end, a scam is very easy to spot. If Starbucks, or any other business, was to offer a deal, they'd offer it on their official Facebook page or website. If the deal is coming from somewhere else, it's not legit.

Second, look at what they're giving away: $50 Fifty Dollars!?!?! A free iPad???! These are incredibly generous giveaways, far beyond what one would expect from an American business (have you even been following Occupy Wall Street?) Even Groupon only takes off 50%, and that's often fraudulent.

Starbucks, Apple, and other companies would never give away so much of their product for free. Scammers rely on American greed to spread their scams far and wide. If they simply offered a 10% off coupon, their scam would seem more realistic, but it wouldn't be enough to motivate a lot of people to fill out the whole survey and go through the entire process.

If you see a deal that's too good to be true, it is. That's a rule of thumb you should always follow.

If you really want to be a wishful thinker, at least do yourself the favor of Googling the deal, and visiting the corporate website first. You can check out mainstream media too-- if a deal this big really was being offered, it would certainly be covered.

Think before you link. You'll be thankful you did.

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