IT security and data protection firm, Sophos, warns that thousands of Facebook users have been tricked into signing up for a premium rate mobile phone service, after being duped into believing they were registering to beta-test the upcoming Apple iPad.
Facebook pages with names such as "iPad Researchers Wanted – Get An iPad Early And Keep It!" and "The Mega iPad Giveaway!" prey on the public's desire to own a free iPad.
The scam pages typically take their intended victims through a three step process:
* "Become a Fan" of the page;
* "Invite your friends" to also become fans of the page, and take part in the "special promotion"; and
* "Claim" or "Apply" for your prize..
Some of the pages pretend to have thousands of positive comments from other Facebook users claiming that the offer is genuine.
When the victim applies for their prize they are typically taken to an online quiz, and their cellphone number is requested so they can be sent the results.
“If inviting all of your friends to participate in a scheme that you haven't properly investigated isn’t bad enough, the biggest mistake of all is to hand over your mobile phone number," says Brett Myroff, CEO of regional Sophos distributor, Sophos South Africa. "You will be signed up for a premium rate service, costing you in the region of $10 every week, until you unsubscribe.
"The scammers who created the fake iPad Facebook pages are undoubtedly skimming off some of this money by bringing new unwitting subscribers to the cellphone service."
Sophos experts believe that the public's desire for a bargain and lust for new gadgets is driving the current spate of iPad-related scams.
"The public aren't being invited to beta-test the iPad, and anyone who believes that Apple is going to give away iPads for free is going to be bitterly disappointed.
"These scams aren't just limited to iPads – we've also seen scam pages offering other expensive electronics and 'premium' services on Facebook. The one thing in common is that all of these pages are designed to trick you into believing that you are going to receive something which the scammers have no intention of delivering."
Sophos advises that social networkers should not invite their friends to join any Facebook page or application until they have properly researched it. Furthermore, users should never be tempted to hand over their mobile phone number to receive the results of internet quizzes.
These attacks are, according to Sophos, the latest evidence of a growth in criminal attacks via social networks.