Why do we fall for Facebook scams?

Facebook likes have become big business
"Take the time to be sure a page is genuine before liking it – and certainly before sharing it"
  • | by Felicity Hannah

Do you unthinkingly ‘share’ giveaways on Facebook, or do you check they are genuine first?

Plenty of us fall for Facebook scams. If I see one more of my friends like and share a post that promises them a £500 Tesco voucher then I may give up on the entire site and go back to LOLing at LOLcats.

Yet even I have fallen for ‘like and share to win one of 500 iPads’, or ‘like and share to receive a free pizza’ and so on.

But why do these scams exist and who are they making money for? How can you tell when something is genuine when, after all, there can be some excellent giveaways via social media.

I’ve taken a closer look…

Savvy social media

The first thing to make clear is that not all social media giveaways are scams.

Some are genuine rewards for loyalty and engagement from companies that value their customers. Actually, we have had some cracking giveaways via Gocompare.com, including iPads and vouchers.

But take the time to be sure a page is genuine before liking it – and certainly before sharing it. If a page purports to be from a big brand, then check out its page address and the kind of content on it – big brands do more than advertise the same giveaway over and over. Run a Facebook search for that brand, so you can see if you’re looking at the real page.

What kind of scams are out there?

It’s not just made-up Amazon giveaways ("these iPad boxes have been damaged, so we’re giving them away to the first 500 people to ‘like’ this post") or Tesco vouchers.

Those viral photographs of cute, ill kids with "like if you hate cancer", or photos that claim ‘something’ will happen if you comment with a certain word – often they are scams. Ridiculously simple maths problems with "like and comment if you know the answer" – more often than not, they are scams.

We share them because we want to show support for sick loved ones, or because we feel terrible for the people in the photos. Or because we want everyone to know that we solved the sum. We comment on them because we’re curious and because other people have, too.

So why do people bother creating this viral content?

It’s the usual reason – there’s money to be made from likes. Businesses want them because Facebook values ‘likes’ - the more a page has, the more important Facebook thinks it is and the higher it appears in Facebook searches.

Also, potential customers think a company is more trustworthy, popular and generally cool if it has a lot of ‘likes’.

So, ‘like farmers’ create the kind of content that’s likely to be popular and go viral.

These farmers then sell their insanely popular page, the new owner changes the name and suddenly has a massively thriving online community – all without making any effort to actually engage with customers.

If you run an internet search for ‘Sell my fan page’, you’ll find dozens of companies willing to buy popular pages. Online rumour is that the going rate is around £120 for 100,000 likes. (Phew, I’ve never written ‘like’ so many times, I’m starting to feel like a Californian teenager.)

Anyway, the next time you’re thinking about ‘liking’ a funny or sad picture, or sharing a giveaway, it’s worth stopping and questioning how genuine it is.

Fortunately, you don’t really lose out by sharing like-farming content. But somewhere out there, someone is making money from that picture of the ill kid – and more often than not, it isn’t the kid.

Have your say on this issue by visiting our Facebook or Twitter page. The first 50 to ‘like and share’ the link will get exclusive positive thoughts from the writer.