Hoaxes are all over Facebook and with users often encouraged or forced via hijacks and hacks to share and like content, it will often seem like the hoax has been personally vouched for by your friend.
This is the word from Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO of ESET Southern Africa, who adds that – fortunately – most of the popular Facebook hoaxes are unoriginal and have been seen before in some form.
She offers five tips to spot a Facebook hoax.
If it asks you to share first, beware
Scammers know that the best way to get you to click their link is to have had another friend like or share it first. So often they will ask you to share a video or a picture before you see it. This should trigger alarm bells. If they want you to share it first the chances are it almost certainly does not exist.
Real websites want your page views. This content could be annoying surveys or it could be malware, but it’s not what you want.
Does it seem believable?
Often, Facebook hoaxes will promise something that is literally unbelievable to reel you in. Examples from the past have been fisherman catching dinosaurs and real life mermaids. Most likely, any video proving their existence will require you to upgrade your video software or give you some nasty malware.
If you really can’t resist temptation step outside of Facebook and google it, if dinosaurs or mermaids are discovered to be real, reputable newsites will have found time to report it.
If I get a million likes
People offering to do things if they reach a million likes may be perfectly harmless, if pretty pointless, but they can have a darker side. Likes are a currency of sorts. A page with lots of likes can be sold for cold hard cash. Pages with 100 000 likes can go for thousands of rands, leaving you liking something undesirable, which could do some serious damage once sold.
Remember, though, if likes promise to do something tangibly good, such as pay for medical bills or similar, they are not real world currency – so move along.
Anything that lets you use Facebook differently
Facebook has a page full of frequent myths about the site that often gets spread as truth. To be clear, it tells you that Facebook won’t ever charge and that you can’t change the colour of your pages or see who has viewed your profile. Apps promising to do this, won’t act as promised but will load you up with spam or worse. Stay clear.
Shocking video clips
Scammers know they need to grab your attention with content you can’t see elsewhere and it is often violent and grizzly. If you see news sites promising celebrity deaths or people being mauled by animals, you can bet your last dollar that they’re not a legitimate website. Real news sites offer warnings of unpleasant content. If sites are using them to grab clicks you shouldn’t trust them.