The Better Business Bureau is warning people not to fall for “like farming” social media scams that offer prizes in exchange for engagement, such as Likes or comments. The tricky thing is that some contests are legit, so you’ll need to know how to spot the fake ones.
How the scam works
You might see posts on social sites like Facebook or Instagram promoting a giveaway, promising cash, gift cards, or other big-ticket items like RVs, which can be “won” by liking or commenting on the post. Of course, these prizes don’t actually exist. So what’s the catch, especially if you’re just liking or commenting on a post? As the Better Business Bureau puts it:
As with many scams, this technique, known as “like-farming,” has several different aims. Often, the giveaway post itself is initially harmless – albeit fake. But when the scammer collects enough likes and shares, they will edit the post and add something malicious, such as a link to malware. Other times, once scammers reach their target number of likes, they strip the page’s original content and use it to promote spammy products or sell it on the black market.
Scammers take advantage of the fact that giveaways can be legitimate promotions, although the fake ones are easier to spot if you know what to look for.
How to spot a giveaway scam
A second look at a social media post should offer some clues. Have you ever seen the account before? Does it have a long history of posts? Is it amateurish with lots of spelling mistakes or blurry photos? Signs of a fake contest include:
It’s from an unverified account
An account that’s been verified by a social media platform is unlikely to be a scam. Look for official blue checkmarks either for Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook next to the name of the account. Also, any company on Facebook will have a “Page Transparency” box on the lefthand column, which will tell you the real entity behind the account. Not all legitimate accounts are verified, however, so you’ll want to look for other signs of a possible scam, too.
The account is suspiciously new
If you don’t see a long history or posts for an account offering prizes, or it has a suspiciously low follower count (for Facebook, look for the total number of Likes in the “about” page), be wary. This is doubly true if the account is claiming to be from a celebrity or well-known brand. Scammers steal logos and photographs to make an account page look legit, but remember that a big brand like Walmart should have millions of followers, not thousands.
There are no terms and conditions
If the giveaway post only has a few short sentences and no contact details or eligibility requirements, you should probably walk away. Though they’re not always followed, legitimate giveaways are legally required to include information about the odds of winning, the end date, age requirements for entry, and language explaining that no purchase is necessary for entry.
The giveaway asks you to tag people
Many online scams—especially pyramid schemes—rely on people tagging others as part of the contest in order to reach as many potential victims as possible. It works too well: when people are tagged by unwitting people they trust, like family members or friends, they are more likely to perpetuate the scam. But many people also find it annoying to be tagged in this fashion, and tag-based promotions are less likely to be aligned with most brand’s marketing values. If a giveaway contest requires a bunch of extra work in general, think twice about engaging.
If you’ve spotted a scam, report it using the BBB.org/ScamTracker.