Last week I wrote about scams that can get to you via Facebook or email.  Since I saw a few scams posted today, that have resulted in more spam I thought I would write more about it.

The scam was on Facebook and it suggested Southwest was giving away free tickets such as shown below.Someone seeing this post clicked on the post and immediately everyone in his Facebook friends list saw this appear on their feed.  It becomes spam for the rest of us because every time a friend clicks on it, the post is again on our feed.  But, why is it a scam?  Well, the unsuspecting person clicks on it and is first told that in order to be eligible he must share it with all of his friends.   Since it seems like a good idea, the person is willing to do so.  However, now the application has access to his friends list (which the person doesn’t realize is a bad idea until it is too late).  Worse yet, the person is not entered into a drawing for the tickets at all.  The person is directed to yet another site with a claim that he has just won another prize.  This may continue for a while until either the sites claim more prizes are won if they only click through or until they try to sell something to the person.  At the end, the original person has wasted time, annoyed his friends and maybe have information stolen from him.

Similarly, today I got an email from an unknown person saying,

Everyone, Starbucks Corporation is giving away holiday giftcards.  Hurry up, Do not waste a second. Heres the webpage – http://t.co/h3HbKe9P   There just 303 left!

If you follow this link, it asks you to post to Facebook, and you go through the same kind of pattern as with the Southwest example above.

Note that Southwest and Starbucks are just as much victims as the rest of us.  These scams leave a long trail of bad will toward their products.  In other words, everyone loses.

The question I am frequently asked is WHY do people create these things?  Well, we know from my earlier post  (and the suggestion above), that the spam is caused by unsuspecting people sharing what they think is a great deal with other friends.  But, why the scam?   There are as many reasons for this as there are for crime in the real (non-digital) world.  Some people are just plain thieves;  they want to direct you to a site from which they can steal your money or information so they can make “an easy buck.”  Others may be people who just like the idea of controlling the behavior of a large number of people on the Internet.  These folks do not want to steal anything from us but time because that makes them feel superior.  Still others are young (generally) programmers who just want to learn how to make applications work.  To them, it is fun to try new things;  they do not really think about the harm in which they are putting other people.   Another group think they are helping to drive traffic to particular sites to help in their marketing.  Still others are trying to direct you to a site that will give you a message in which they really believe and want to encourage others to believe.

The bottom line is that it does not matter WHY people do it.  Instead, it is important for us all to protect ourselves from it.  The most important thing to remember is, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.  If you are in Facebook when you receive the message, think twice about allowing any application access to your information.   Never purchase from an unknown group and keep personal information personal.  If you receive the information via email, never click on the link inside the email, always copy it and paste it into a browser.   Finally, always check good deals or warnings out before sharing them with your friends so your posts do not become someone else’s spam;  consider using snopes.com first.

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