By July 14, 2011

How to Avoid Facebook Scams and What to Do If You Screwed Up

You’ve seen them if you’re on Facebook: videos about “THE MOST EMBARRASSING THING EVER!!11” or “CASEY ANTHONY CONFESSES TO LAWYER!!” or “THIS IS A NAKED TEEN!!11!”

In fact, some of you may have clicked on one of those kinds of videos. Most of these are scams designed to hijack your Facebook account, acquire your password, see who your contacts are (and send them spam email), or find out more about you.

You wouldn’t click on a video that stole all of your goodies, would you? Except that thousands of people do every day. I have about 300 friends on Facebook, and there’s at least one scam video posted every day. I like to think most of my friends are tech savvy, and a 10% success rate across all of Facebook means 75 million users are clicking on (and reposting) scam videos every day.

Here are two examples of Facebook video scams, and a decision plan to see if any other videos are scams.

My friends post plenty of real videos, either ones they create or ones they find on the Internet. I give videos “points” if I see a post from them that seems weird. The more points I give a video, the higher the chances are that it’s a scam. Here’s an actual example of a video my friend posted recently:

Generic ways you can tell a video is fake

  • Misspellings, “hacker,” or “|337” spelling. In the example above, there’s a “0” instead of an “o” in “video.” Why would a real site, especially a site like CNN as claimed in the video link above, put in a typo?
  • An implausible or sensational premise. The Casey Anthony trial is a hot topic right now, so I wasn’t surprised to see Facebook scams about it. Think to yourself: “is this a crazy or unexpected topic?” In this case, why would Casey Anthony admit something after the trial is over? Does that seem unexpected to you? If the answer is yes, give it a point.
  • Is the photo of a naked or mostly-naked woman? Come on, don’t click on these videos, you should know better. It’s sad seeing my friends who are dads or fathers-to-be with these types of scams reposted on their walls. Lonely, fellas? Keep your online fulfillment private and don’t click on a sex video on Facebook.
  • Videos that claim to give you free stuff. You can’t get something for nothing, especially on Facebook.
  • Search Google or Bing for the title of the video, and add the word “scam.” Searching for “BREAKING NEWS – Leaked Vide0 of Casey Anthony CONFESSING to Lawyer! scam would immediately show multiple articles proclaiming the video to be a Facebook scam.

Two or more points = possible scam. When in doubt, don’t click on it. If you really really want to click on it, do a quick search.

So, what about this one? Scam or not?

  • Misspelling: one point
  • A photo of a mostly-naked woman: one point
  • A search of this title reveals it is a scam. Check out this Facecrooks entry.


So you clicked on a link anyway. Someone (probably me) sent you a message letting you know that it’s scam. What do you do now?

  1. Change your Facebook password immediately.
  2. Many of these scams will involve getting your password from you by coercion or by hacking. You may not be able to change your password because someone already hacked your account and changed it. Here are some things you can do to reset your password. The best thing to hope for at this point is that you can answer your security question and get your password reset. The weakness to this approach is that the hackers may have changed your email address to their own, so even if you remember your security question the reset password may not go to your real email address.
  3. Change any other account on the Web that uses the same password as your Facebook account. There was a recent incident where a hacker group released over 60,000 usernames and passwords to the Internet. Many of these people used the same username and password combination on other sites, and all of the sudden unauthorized activity started happening on Amazon, Netflix, and other sites.
  4. Let you friends know. You need to email your friends, especially if you can’t reclaim your Facebook access or if you used the same password for your email as you did for Facebook. Tell them that your account(s) may have been hacked, and to be careful with any email or wall posts that appear to come from you.

We all make mistakes, and I’ve had to let some otherwise smart, diligent people know that they exposed themselves to a scam. You should be aware of Facebook scams, and have a plan on what to do if you make a mistake some day.

  • Try to remove the post on your Facebook wall. Move your mouse over the video and then click the X in the upper right hand corner of the post.
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