Monday, September 05, 2016

Yep, Your Mom Was Right. Again.

A while back I received a nice, chatty Facebook message from my good friend LaWanda, to whom I’ve not actually spoken face-to-face in several years. (I've changed the name to protect the innocentalso because I really like the name LaWanda.) I worked with the woman a few years back, and we've stayed in touch, more or less, via FB. I get to hear all about (and see photos of) her kids and grandkids and granddogs and new bathroom tile and incredibly intelligent houseplants and the like, and she gets to hear all about . . . well, mostly about my book and occasionally about my incredibly intelligent granddaughter. (But, see, my granddaughter really is incredibly intelligent. And beautiful. Also, if she’s reading this, she should CLEAN HER ROOM!)

Anyway, LaWanda was just "checking in" to see how I was doing. And I thought, "Well, how nice!! This woman not only remembers me, but actually cares how I'm doing. Man, I must be a whole lot more personable than I thought!"

But it turns out that I'm not personable at all. My “friend” jumped right from "checking in" into wanting to know if I'd heard her good newswhich turned out to be that she had won some sort of multi-thousand dollar lottery prize, using secrets that she was willing to share with me. Because I'm just so damned personable.

So, you know where this is going . . . .  When I received the second message, I realized that someone was trying to scam me. And I also remembered that a few weeks before this, I had accepted a "friend" request from LaWanda, even though we were already friends. I would like to say that I accepted the duplicate request because I had thought about it and assumed that for some reason she had had to start a new FB account, but in truth, I'm just old and forgetful, and I can barely remember the name of my dog. (It's "Annie,” OK? The dog's name is "Annie." I'm just making a point here; work with me, alright?) Basically, I was on automatic pilot and didn't give it much thought; I knew LaWanda, and that was good enough for me. Click.

Annie, protecting us from the evil squirrels.
Dumb. But smart enough not to let it go any further, and awake enough to warn the other people (there were only a few, which was a giveaway in itself) on the fake LaWanda's "friends" list that they (and I) had "friended" a fake LaWanda.

This sort of fakery (I almost typed something else there) has been going on for a while now. Facebook is terrible at policing itself and watching for this sort of thing. There are tons of scams littering everyone's favorite social network. Almost any time you see something like, "How many likes can we get for poor Fred here?" it's a scam of some sort. Poor Fred is almost certainly not stuck in some cancer or burn ward in a faraway hospital. (And if he were, your "likes" wouldn't help him. Also, his name's probably not Fred.) And you’re not going to get cheap Ray-Ban sunglasses, either. (You'll get cheesy knockoffs, if you get anything.) You’re also not going to win a red or blue Camaro, a Land Rover or Land Cruiser (not that I can ever remember which is which), an all-expenses paid 3-day trip to a tropical (or any) island, a classic 1970 Dodge Charger (though I would really, really like one of those), or a fancy motorhome. Nor are you going to win that free cross country flight on South West Airlines; the airline does not spell its name that way and its website is not at or, or any of a dozen other almost correct URLs.

Most of these things are either like-farming or survey scams. In a like-farming scam, the crook really just wants to collect as many "likes" and "shares" as he can, so that he can turn around and sell his “high volume” page to other scammers who will use it to do even worse things. 

Yeah, you're not gonna win this (or any) Dodge
Charger. Sorry. Image courtesy of Brett
One of those “worse things” is a survey scam. This is a swindle in which you’re offered something very, very cool (a free MacBook, for instance, or a nice camera) and All you have to do is Like and Share our page!! Except that, really, you’re just going to get sucked into a series of online “confirmation forms” and surveys, and when you get finished there will not be a free MacBook waiting for you. Get it? There is NEVER going to be a free MacBook. Or a free anything, even after you jump through all the hoops. The scammer is trying to collect as much info about you as he can so that he can sell that data to other scammers (or possibly use it himself to steal your identity), and while he’s at it, he gets paid for every dumb “survey” you fill out. (You might also find out that you’ve just signed up for expensive messaging services, etc.)

In other words, the Internet is full of lies. And liars. Which is too bad, because there really is some kid in a burn ward or cancer ward somewhere, and that kid really does deserve our "likes" and maybe even our money, but it's almost impossible to figure out which one of the FB posts about him is legit.

All of this boils down to, “Mom was right.” If something sounds too good to be true, guess what? It’s not true. (Mom is almost always right. She’s the mom, after all.)

Trust Mom. (And also and 

NEXT WEEK: The Internet: Making smart people do stupid things since 1590.

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