‘Like Farming’ taking advantage of Facebook users’ intentions

(Credit: MGN Online)

It’s everywhere. All over Facebook. So-called ‘fake posts’ trying to sucker people into engaging with their content.

One went viral, where a user named Pooran Singh shared a heart-wrenching photo of a sick child writing, “This little baby has cancer and he needs money for surgery. Facebook has decided to help by giving 2 dollars per like, 4 dollars per comment, and 8 dollars for every share.”

But, in reality, the picture is stolen.

The boy's mother was using the now-stolen images in media interviews in 2016, to show how her son was covered in sores from chicken pox.

By liking those posts, you get caught in the middle of a scam called “like farming.”

‘Like farming’ uses attention-grabbing photos to generate a large number of likes, comments, and shares. It’s becoming known as the chain-letter of the social media age.

According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers pair fake, emotional stories with stolen photos to engage with numerous users.

Next, they collect that information from users who interact with that post or page.

The offender will typically spam users directly, or sell their name, age and other contact information to other scammers.

Adam Gamwell, the CEO of Gamwell Technologies in downtown El Paso, says the danger of “liking” those posts doesn’t necessarily come from the “liking” of those posts itself. It’s the ability that you’re giving resources to someone who most likely has criminal intent.

“So you kind of think of it as you give a dollar to a terrorist, how is that dangerous to you?” Gamwell said. “It’s not. But you’re funding terrorism, right? So ultimately, by ‘liking’ something, you’re giving them power to be able to use their resources down the road. You’re giving money to a con artist.”

But how can users avoid these posts or accounts? Simple.

Gamwell says users should use common sense.

“They’re gonna play on those emotions that you think, ‘Well, what does it hurt to “like” it?’” he said. “But ultimately, you’re giving them that status of that now they can use their resources to reach people, and then get their information.”

The information they’re typically able to get from you liking their posts, and based on your privacy settings, are your pictures, name and basic info.

Unfortunately, there’s not much Facebook can do.

“Facebook’s challenge is being able to minimize the ability for people to use scam functionality to scam like that,” Gamwell says. “They’re doing things to change their algorithms, or trying to identify those things earlier on. Trying to identify scams. But it’s gonna be a continual battle. It always has been, as technology continues to grow.”

Gamwell said the biggest issue is that these scammers keep making more accounts.

He says in order to minimize any risks, users need to educate themselves.

“At the end of the day, the weakest part of any security system is usually the end user. Right?” he said. “Because, I can secure a system, you know, I can lock the door, but if you go and unlock it, what good did it do to lock it in the first place? So it’s that balance.”

As enticing as it may be, it's important for users to stop validating the existence of these scammers. And that's easy to do. Just look before you 'like.'

With anything on the Internet, Gamwell says users should stay alert and pay attention to what's going on, in order to have a healthier experience online.

And like anything else, if it's too good to be true, then it usually is.

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