Have you ever heard of like-farming on Facebook? Read today’s guest post to find out how dangerous it is and how to protect yourself and your Facebook connections from it. – Elena
These days, you need to be very careful what you like and share on Facebook. While click farmers will engage in fraudulent activity with your posts and pages, they’ll also use their own profiles to engage in like-farming.
Like-farming is another type of online fraud, and it’s growing increasingly popular on Facebook. Like-farmers will ask people to like and share posts in order to quickly gain followers on a spam page that’s then flipped for a profit. You’ve probably seen these posts before, even if you didn’t realize it.
Like-farming is not only annoying, but like any fraud, it can be dangerous as well.
What You Need to Know
Like-farming occurs when someone, usually a scammer, creates a page or a post about a fake giveaway, false news post, or made-up story using a (generally stolen) picture in order to gain followers.
The posts will ask for likes and shares in order to support, pray for, or disagree with a cause, or in order to be eligible to win a contest or giveaway. When you like or share a post, it causes you to inadvertently promote the post and make it possible for all your friends, families, and followers to see the scammer’s Facebook page. Facebook’s current newsfeed algorithm actually helps like-farming scammers, too, because the more likes and shares a post has, the more it’ll show up on others’ newsfeeds.
The Dangers Of “Liking”
Scammers will sometimes make multiple accounts and share posts encouraging others to like, share, and comment. Then, once a page garners enough likes, it’s used to trick people into giving their personal information or making a purchase.
Sometimes, the pages are even sold on the black market for other scammers who wish to repurpose the page to fit their own goals. The more likes a page has, the more money the original scammer can sell it for.
The pages that are sold are usually stripped of their content and used to promote a product that the scammer makes a commission for selling. They’ll also be used for fraudulent activity such as a survey scam or contest, which will usually ask for personal information.
Buying one of these pages is fairly simple, too. Fameswap has Facebook pages for sale and even breaks them down into categories based on their content, such as funny, quotes, automotive, music, or sports.
Then, scammers can bid on the Facebook pages that interest them. They can sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. This Facebook page has a link listed, so you can check it out before you bid. The highest bid so far is $3,000 for a page that has well over 1 million likes.
The Dangers Start With a Like
There are many different types of like-farming posts that you need to be aware of to make sure you aren’t spreading the scam. You’ve most likely seen them scattered throughout your newsfeed. They’re emotional posts that tug on your heartstrings, rallying posts that attempt to get you agree or disagree by sharing, and magic posts that tell you to comment and share for a special effect that never happens.
Liking these photos may seem innocent enough, but it’s not. Each time you like a post, your friends and followers can see it too, so they’ll share it and the post will spread. Chances are a lot of people who see that post will also like that page.
Even though a page you like doesn’t have access to your profile like your friends do (as long as it’s private), a page you like can use your profile information to push promotional offers based on your interests, tempt you with contests where you’re asked for personal information, or even post on your behalf.
Again, that might not seem too terrible. What’s a little spam? We’re all used to it. But what if your friends and family engage with the contests and give out their phone number and home address? Or if they see a tempting offer for a cool download, and accidentally infect their devices with malware? They could even become victims of a phishing scam by trying to make a purchase from a website shared on one of these profiles, so that the scammer now has their credit card info.
Scams can also include download prompts, which are used to spread malware or for phishing. There are also fake news stories that are concocted and then shared in the hopes of getting extremely gullible users to give their credit card information to make a monetary donation in support.
So, while it might seem like nothing to “like” and share a post about a person who needs your prayers, you’re actually setting off a chain of events that increases the chances of you becoming a victim of spam and other fraud.
What Posts to Watch For
Now that you know why to avoid these posts, you need to know what exactly to watch out for.
Most of the images used in emotional like-farming posts are graphic, will play on your emotions, and they’re generally stolen or photoshopped. They usually prompt you to like or share in order to show you’re praying for them or supporting them.
It might not affect you too much if you simply like the post, but by doing so, you’re also exposing your friends and family to the post, and they might engage even further and like the page. This leaves them at a greater risk of being exposed to spam that could con them out of personal information.
These emotional posts have become so widespread, there are even people making fun of them. This photo of a dog with a piece of ham on his face was shared thousands of times because people thought they were praying for a dog that suffered burns.
These like-farming posts are usually of the political or religious nature, and generally ask you to like or share to show you’re against or in support of something.
Like the emotional posts, it usually doesn’t seem dangerous to like these posts, but most pages like this are particularly spammy. They’ll also ask for follows, and could eventually ask for monetary donations to support the cause they’re rallying for or against, which leaves you or your friends in danger of having your bank account accessed by scammers.
While there are many pages that are legitimate, you should check the source before you share. Generally, if a page has a checkmark next to their name, they’re a verified source and that page is actually supporting a real cause.
These are usually photos with captions like, “Press like, share, and comment ‘K’ to see what happens!” These fraudulent posts are easy to spot, because there’s no action that a user can take that’ll change a picture or make it move. Instead, you’re just promoting a post and spamming your friends.
Most of these posts ask for a like, share, and comment. All of that engagement will cause the post to circulate even more than the emotional or rallying posts, which increases the chances of your followers falling for any future scams the owner of the page might have.
These posts are usually from a page that seems official (again, look for the check mark), but they’re actually spammers who post fake giveaways in order to gain likes, comments, shares, and even personal information they may require in order to enter the contest. You’ll usually see the promotion over and over again, but a winner will never be announced.
Usually, contest posts will come from a page that has already gained a lot of followers from emotional, rallying, or “magic” posts. Once the page has acquired thousands of followers, that’s when the spammers will try to tempt you into giving them more personal information.
Source: Dowitcher Designs
Don’t Help the Spammers
All of these issues can potentially be avoided if the owner of the like-farming page never got the likes they wanted in the first place.
Basically, unless it’s from a verified Facebook account, or someone you know, if a posts offers something in exchange for a like, comment, share, or any other action, it’s probably a scam. If a giveaway seems to good to be true, then it most likely is.
Make sure you know what you’re liking and sharing before you take action, or else Facebook spammers might use the personal information they took to send a thank you card. In the form of junk mail, of course.
Alexa Matia is the Junior Content Writer at eZanga.com. She loves to write about all things digital, including social media, PPC, display, and pay per call advertising. You can find her on Twitter to see more of her posts.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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