Friday, January 8, 2016

Always, always look a gift horse in the mouth

Do you love your giveaways?  Social media are full of them; free iPads, iPhones, free holidays, free first class travel for a year with British Airways, Virgin flights, BMWs and so on.  All you have to do is like a page and share their post.

Harmless enough, right? No. Most of these giveaways are fake pages that need you to proliferate their scam to other people and once you like them, unless your profile is watertight, they have access to your social media, your likes, dislikes, photos, friends and if you particularly naive, your phone number and date of birth.

People love giveaways.  We like to think that lucky things do happen and they do but this belief is often exploited by scammers and the way to get you to comply, the rewards are often big (does anyone ask themselves before sharing, why would British Airways give away first class travel for a year, likely to cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds) and/or in line with current desires.

Last hoax giveaway, even though not particularly malicious, was that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook will be giving away free money to people sharing the status about it.  

People got excited and shared it and there is nothing more legitimate than a post saying; according to this and that, this is not a hoax.  It adds legitimacy but does anyone bother checking?  This is precisely how scams work.  If one sees a post like this (or any advertising some giveaway) from a friend, the credibility of a friend extends to the message, even if it has been shared thousands of times and is not actually written by a friend in question. 

So next time you see shared giveaways, check the page that is sharing it and Google the giveaway (more here).  This is often enough to spot a hoax or a scam.