Tempted By Facebook Spam? Take Facebook’s “Stop. Think. Connect.” Security Quiz First!
Facebook’s fight against spam and scams continues with their latest filings of three lawsuits a U.S. federal court in San Jose, California late last month. Facebook is alleging violations of their terms and applicable law by defendants attempting to trick users of Facebook into signing up for mobile subscriptions and then virally sending spam to their friends.
According to , “In three separate complaints, we allege that Steven Richter, Jason Swan, and Max Bounty, Inc. used Facebook to offer enticing, but non-existent products and services. According to our complaints, the defendants, among other things, represented that in order to qualify for certain fake or deceptive offers, people had to spam their friends, sign up for automatic mobile phone subscription services, or provide other information. We claim that by doing this, they violated the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM), and other state and federal laws.”
Facebook is seeking compensatory, statutory and punitive damages from each of the three parties named in the lawsuits.
Examples of this type of spam/scam are the countless “Free FarmVille Cash”, “500 Mafia Wars Rewards Points, and “66×66 FarmVille Expansion” fan pages we see almost daily on our walls.
Richter is alleged to have created more than 40 Facebook profiles and over 40 Facebook pages, all designed to lure 388,000 users to various third-party sites. He is estimated to have earned 44 cents for each Facebook user he duped.
Let’s do the math: 388,000 x $0.44 = $170,720.00
Swan allegedly harvested Facebook user data by tricking users into participating in various online quizzes and surveys. You have most likely see a variety of them appear on your news feed; “Take the IQ Challenge”, “Which 7 Deadly Sin Are You” and “Are you Stressed?” He is also accused of encouraging Facebok users to spam each other by luring them to copy and paste a piece of java script code into their browsers. This snippet of code automatically blasts a message to all of the user’s friends.
Max Bounty, one of many CPA (Cost Per Action) affiliate marketing firms, is alleged to be behind the schemes of both Richter and Swan. The lawsuit filed by Facebook is alleging that Max Bounty encouraged their affiliates to set up fake Facebook profiles and pages for the purposes of luring Facebook users.
Facebook holds the record for the two largest judgments in the history of the CAN-SPAM Act. In October 2009, Facebook won a $711 million dollar judgement against spammer Sanford Wallace. In 2008, an $873 million judgment against Adam Guerbuez was a awarded when he was found guilty of sending out more than 4 million pornographic spam messages over Facebook.
In an attempt to encourage Facebook users to be vigilant and learn the skills necessary to protect themselves online, Facebook has teamed up with the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Anti-Phishing Working Group, and the Stop. Think. Connect. public awareness campaign, by offering the .
I encourage you to take the quiz and test your knowledge. Once you’re done, post a badge to your Wall and share tips with your friends so they too can become more aware.
FrontierVille: Rogue App Frontier Helper Silently Spams Your Wall
If you are a fan of FrontierVille, you may be tempted to allow access to a new app called Frontier Helper. Don’t.
The application, developed by TopFBGames.com, is highly suspect and is virally making its rounds to players news feeds. Like most of these deceptive apps, it promises “100′s of neighbors in minutes”, bigger homesteads faster, free FrontierVille gifts and even “Free animals to adopt using our secret FrontierVille link”. The last promise is quite amusing, since animal adoptions are not yet a part of FrontierVille play.
The tempting news feed post looks like the following:
Once you click the link to find out more, you are taken to a Facebook app page full of RockYou temptations. Buried inside these, you will find the details of the toolbar/group called Frontier Helper:
Once you click “get the Frontier Helper Toolbar” box, you will be prompted to allow the application access to your profile and the ability to post to your wall.
If you allow permissions to Frontier Helper, the application silently posts numerous status updates to your friends encouraging them to also install the app.
These numerous status updates, with a pre-populated message claiming that “hey this really works”, is the root cause of the app spreading rapidly. Within my own news feed, I have noted the status updates appearing from the same friend as close as 2 minutes apart, and six times within 1 hour.
Any application that hijacks your status updates this often, and pre-populates one of those scammy “hey this works” messages, should be highly suspect.
How To Remove Frontier Helper
If you have already allowed access to Frontier Helper, you will want to go to Account –> Application Settings –> Recently Used and click the x that appears to the right of the Frontier Helper application. You will also want to remove the toolbar from your browser. Reports and reviews are claiming it significantly slows down your browser capabilities, as well as the game. I love FrontierVille, but it certainly does not need any further sluggishness!
Facebook Hoax: Christopher Butterfield Hacker Warning
Currently circulating Facebook walls is a message warning friends that by simply accepting a specific friend request, you will have your computer and all your friends will be hacked too. This is not only untrue, but impossible.
In addition to Christopher Butterfield and Jennifer Christina Smith, other known names included in this hoax are Claudia Rivalta, Daniela Mainardi, and Simon Ashton. I am sure there are dozens more floating around as well, but will appear something similar to:
Do not accept a friend request from a CHRISTOPHER BUTTERFIELD and JENNIFER CHRISTINA SMITH they are hackers. Tell all on your list because if somebody on your list adds them, they’ll be on your list too. They’ll figure out ur computer’s ID and address, so copy & paste this message to everyone even if u don’t care for them cause if he hacks them, he hacks you. Be careful.
As you can see, the message warns that by accepting a “friend request” from Christopher Butterfield (or whatever other name is used), not only allows him or her to hack into your computer and gain access to your email account, but also the accounts of anyone on your friends list. The warning has been circulating rapidly through Facebook, other social networking websites, and by email.
This is technically impossible. Hackers (or crackers) use a variety of ways to trick you into giving them access to your computer or personal information. They may send a phishing email coercing info from you, or they may trick you into downloading something that installs trojan software, allowing your computer to be controlled remotely. But, even the best hackers cannot get into your system simply by being on your friends list. There has to be an exchange of information, or the transfer of a file in order for this to happen.
Unfortunately, it is hoaxes such as these, where people feel it is better to be safe than sorry, that turn us jaded and suspicious of all ‘pass it on’ messages. This inadvertently affects truly important valid messages and warnings from being sent to friends.
Be cautious of sending things on to friends. A 30 second Google search on a section of the warning will almost always let you know if it is real, or simply another silly hoax.
Facebook Confirms Again ‘No Profile Spy’
The dreaded “see who’s been viewing your profile”, aka Profile Spy, has reared its ugly head yet again. Late last year, the hoax had millions of Facebook users scrambling to either try it out, or hide out!
Facebook Security itself recently posted the following statement, proving that any sort of advertised “Profile Spy” does not work, nor can work. The functionality required for an application such as this work has been disabled by Facebook developers.
Here is what they have to say:
On Facebook, there’s no way to see who has visited your profile. We’ve also prevented others from providing this functionality. We’re working hard to block and remove websites, Pages, and applications that claim to do this. If you see one, don’t be fooled, and report it to us immediately.
This therefore includes such sites out there as profilespy.info. (I have intentionally not linked to the domain but feel free to visit it if you wish!) The page redirects visitors to an on-page application called Facebook Profile Snitch. I strongly do not recommend you enter your email address into the box provided. The name of the domain you are redirected to (theblackboxproject) is suspect enough and should raise red flags to those who noticed. The app is most likely some form of email harvesting, most likely redirecting you again to some sort of paid survey set up.
Hopefully the actions of Facebook Security will help reduce the number of deceptive groups and apps from popping up. I honestly suspect it will not though, as there just seems to be so many people out there who really do want to see who is looking at their profile
Warning: Facebook ‘Like Button Worm’ Clickjacks Your Friends
Over the past 10 days, Facebook users have been plagued by a variety of clickjacking viruses, now known as the Like Button Worm. Those affected quickly realize they’ve been duped, but by then, the chain reaction has already started.
The virus spreads simply by 1 person clicking a “Like” button on any of the affected pages. Since we all see updates in our status feeds about people, places and things our friends ‘like’, curiosity gets the better of many, and they too click to check it out.
Here is a short list of groups/videos/pages as a sample of what is enticing people to click:
“LOL This girl gets OWNED after a POLICE OFFICER reads her STATUS MESSAGE.”
“This man takes a picture of himself EVERYDAY for 8 YEARS!!”
“The Prom Dress That Got This Girl Suspended From School.”
“This Girl Has An Interesting Way Of Eating A Banana, Check It Out!”
Once you click on any of the above links, you arrive on a blank page that instructs you to “Click To Continue”. According to sophos.com, that page is infected by a virus called Troj/Iframe-ET. As soon as you click it, it automatically posts a silly spammy message to your wall, enticing your friends to view the video/link/group too.
How To Stop The Spread:
If you’ve been clickjacked, view your Facebook profile page and delete any status messages there that you yourself did not post. Don’t forget to delete the one that says you like the link. This will remove the update from not only your profile page, but the news feeds of all your friends.
How To Avoid Clickjacking:
Be vigilant about what you click. If you are brought to a blank page with just 1 link on it, that alone should be suspect.
Noticeably, the one line updates that used to appear on our profile pages when we clicked the like button of a friends post, are no longer there. If this was a decision made by Facebook to help combat the virus is unknown at this time.
Warning: Facebook Antivirus Will Virally Spam Your Friends
Let’s stop this one before it gets too rampant, as it’s a nasty one!
Do not install F’acebook Antivirus. It is a deceptive rogue application that, as soon as you install it, will tag every single one of your friends in a photo in batches of about 20. It then posts that photo to your wall.
This little scam is brand new and hopefully will be deleted quickly by Facebook, but we can certainly help slow down the spread of it while we wait.
This is what the photo looks like:
Apart from the wall spamming, another obvious indication that this is a fake application itself, is the url:
A valid application is not going to have a url with a bunch of jumbled letters at the end.
If you have been tagged in the photo by one of your friends (remember, they did not really do this – the app did automatically), you can remove the tag.
1. Open your photos
2. Click the offending picture
3. Look for your name in the list of people tagged
4. Click the ‘Remove Tag’ link that appears beside your name
The photo will then automatically be removed from your photo list.
This little scam is brand new and hopefully will be deleted quickly by Facebook, but we can certainly help slow down the spread of it while we wait.
UPDATE: MARCH 30
Note #1 – It should be noted that this is not a virus and as long as you are not actually downloading anything, will not affect your machine. It is a rogue application within Facebook, and is only a nuisance to your Facebook account.
Note #2 – Facebook is well aware of the situation and is working on removing the application tags, photos and any other traces from all known variants of the app. This includes F’acebook Antivirus, Facebook Antivirus and Antivirus in Focebook. (Please note the different spellings).
Numerous people are reporting “validation errors”. This is due to Facebook working on the issues listed above, so hang tight for a little while and they should end up disappearing on their own.
HOAX: Free Facebook Gold Accounts
The latest hoaxing craze circulating Facebook is groups and fan pages claiming to Facebook offering free or limited time upgrades to a supposed Gold account.
There is no Facebook Gold Account. This hoax has been circulating in various forms for over 10 months.
Here are a few samples of ridiculous pages and groups claiming to upgrade you if you invite all your friends:
This one is quite funny actually. It’s a group, managed by 2 kids, and they actually interact with the members. Their claims of working on 6000+ lines of code, alpha and beta testing, server resources etc, had me chuckling. They are however a menace…And are getting kicks out of fooling people…
Here is a sample of their BS, where they claim the image/photo cannot be seen unless you upgrade to gold:
I particularly like how they claim “Chrome Accounts” have stolen their idea…
I am sure mom and dad are real proud of these two yahoos…
They were not however smart enough to start their hoax without revealing their real names… Can you say Bye Bye From Facebook?
This hoax has been set up as a fan page, and therefore the identity of the scammer is not revealed.
Of course, you are required to invite every single friend in order to be upgraded. Oh yes, and then you have to complete a “free” offer/survey before that official upgrade.
By the way, the offer is not free – you will be charged on your cell phone AND this yahoo gets paid for you completing the survey.
Be vigilant of groups such as this. If Facebook decides to offer any enhancements to your account, be rest assured you will NOT be required to join some group or invite all your friends. These type of instructions continue to be a huge red flag that the page or group is a hoax.
Therefore, please do NOT invite all your friends
FALSE: Facebook Automation Labs Warning Untrue
We have another ‘pass-it-on’ status message flooding walls over the past 24 hours that needs to be debunked! The “block Automation Labs” rumor is 100% incorrect, despite tens of thousands of people circulating it.
It will read something similar to:
As you can see, users are directed to go to the Block section of their Privacy Settings, and enter either ‘Automation Labs’ or ‘Information Lab’ into the name field and block whatever people pop up on the list. This is completely unnecessary…
The Block feature on Facebook searches for anyone, group or page that contains the name you have entered. For example, enter your own last name in that field and see what pops up. All this means is that these people have something in common with you – your last name. The people appearing on the list when you enter ‘Automation Lab’, simply have some sort of association to the search phrase. This does not mean they are spying on you.
Automation Lab is an IT company. They also have created an automation tool for FarmVillle, which is why many of you are seeing so many people pop up on this Block list. If anyone is advertising the FarmVille Manager, developed by Automation Labs, they will appear on this list. Also, anyone who works for Automation Lab will also automatically appear on the list.
Alternatively, anyone listing an employer with the word ‘automation’ in the name, will appear on this list.
In addition to the ‘Automation Lab’ block, we are seeing people tell others to block people containing ‘Information lab’. The same details apply as above.
I did a test, entering ‘information lab’ in the name field, and out of the first 5 people that appeared on my list, I could view 3 profiles, and this is what I found:
- One worked for Oxford Information Labs
- One worked for the US Department of Defense under the Defense Systems Information Agency
- One worked for the US Air Force Research Lab
As you can see, if you were to blindly follow the instructions detailed above, you could in fact be blocking many of the friends and family you have not yet connected with. These people would never be able to ever contact you via Facebook.
Privacy concerns on high, and this is why rumors and hoaxes such as these spread so quickly. However, a little digging into exactly what it is you are being told to do, should be your primary concern. One day, a change you make, could actually put your account in the hands of someone with ulterior motives…
FALSE: Has Your Facebook Been Running Slow Internal Spybot Rumor
Most of you have probably seen the latest ‘pass-it-rumor’ circulating, telling us there is an internal spybot on our Facebook profile, which is supposedly making our computers slow. It goes something like:
ALERT ALERT>>>>> Has your facebook been running slow lately? Go to “Settings” and select “application settings”, change the dropdown box to “added to profile”. If you see one in there called “un named app” delete it … Its an internal spybot. Pass it on. =======> thanks to this message i realised it
This is NOT an internal spybot (here.
While there is nothing wrong with deleting it, it is also harmless to keep it, as it will simply disappear on it’s own shortly. However, there have been may reports of performance being improved once the culprit has been removed.
Rumor: Facebook Will Charge A Monthly Fee
The latest “invite-all-your-friends” Facebook rumor is yet again centered around the popular social networking site claiming they will be charging a monthly fee.
There are numerous variations of the rumor out there, each claiming a different dollar value to be charged by a specific date. These groups and fan pages even go on to say that if a specific number of people join the page, Facebook will reconsider.
It’s pure bunk.
Here are a few examples of groups grabbing the interest and attention of well over 2 million people combined so far:
– 850,000+ people
This one is quite funny actually, as it posts a proposed monthly fee of $14.99 and £14.99 – the same supposed monthly fee. Anyone who has paid any relative close attention to either economies will realize that there is quite the drastic different between the 2 amounts once converted to the same currency.
As of today, 1 British pound = ~1.6 U.S. dollars, making the claimed fee to US users actually $23.99 monthly.
The group creator also claims that Mark Zuckerburg will sell the site due to its popularity, and some mumbo jumbo about Facebook being 3 years old – all of which is untrue. The creator, Jordan Taylor, is a 14 year old kid from the UK, with obviously too little to do with his time as the news states
“has been saved thankyou and this was no hoax”
Additional groups and pages gathering way too many fans and members include:
– 417,000+ members joined
– 657000+ fans joined
– 18000 members joined
Facebook has no intention of charging a basic monthly fee, let alone selling the network. Just this past Thursday January 21st, Facebook announced the ground breaking ceremony of their brand new, and extremely expensive, custom being built in Oregon. It is highly unlikely that any company is going to undergo a project such as this, with the supposed intention of selling within a few months.
In an April 2009 interview with BusinessWeek Editor-In-Chief Stephen Adler, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg was asked and answered:
ADLER: Does Facebook plan on charging a membership fee? Over three-quarters of its users are going into a panic-induced assumption that this is true, even though there hasn’t been talk of a membership fee from the business press or Facebook itself. So can you calm the panic?
SANDBERG: The answer is no, we are not planning on charging a basic fee for our basic services. Once again, that question stems from people thinking we’re growing so quickly we’re running out of money. We’re growing really quickly, but we can finance that growth. We’re not going to charge for our basic services.
Based on Sandberg’s reply, it’s obvious that “basic service” use of Facebook will remain a free service. It does however leave the door open for the possibility of an upgraded paid membership service.
Keeping in mind that Facebook is a business, and adding a paid membership program is an extremely viable and sensible business option. In my personal opinion, such a program would be geared towards the marketing and commercial aspects that Facebook seems to be targeting lately.
More and more big business brands are seeing the lucrative advantage to using Facebook for their promotional marketing, as so far have been able to do so at zero cost. It is no wonder that Facebook would love to have a share in their windfall.
Would you be willing to pay a fee to use Facebook, if you were granted additional features? If so, leave us a comment below, including what additional features you would like to see added!
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