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Caution: Internet scamming

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Friday, June 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

From snake oil salesmen and pool hall hustlers to Nigerian princes and Spanish prisoners, scams were happening long before the Internet. Unfortunately, the Internet has made things worse.

Modern scammers can reach billions of potential victims with a single message. And their scams are getting better every day. If you aren't paying attention, you could fall for a scam and not ever realize it.

One of the easiest places to encounter online scams is Facebook. Facebook encourages sharing, which means certain scams can travel far and wide.

These are not harmless scams either. Some of them can install viruses that take over your account or steal your money. Yikes!

Here are four popular scams that should set off your warning bells as soon as you see them.

• Free giveaways

The easiest scam to fall for on Facebook is a free giveaway. You'll see everything from gift cards to free tablets, laptops and smartphones. Who doesn't like free?

Just one catch. You have to give the “company” your information. Or you have to download a program to qualify.

With the information you enter, a scammer has a foothold into stealing your identity. Entering your cellphone number often leads to bogus premium charges appearing on your wireless bill.

It's true that some companies do give away free stuff through Facebook. When they do, however, it's promoted on that company's official Facebook page.

If you check the company's page or website and don't see the giveaway, steer clear.

• Viral videos

Almost as exciting as winning free gadgets is seeing the latest viral video. However, many supposedly salacious celebrity “videos” posted on Facebook are not videos at all.

When you click to watch, you'll be asked to update your video player first. You'll even be provided with the updated program file. How helpful!

Of course, the program is really a virus. Plus, it will automatically share the scam with all of your friends.

This one is easy to avoid. Type the video's title into Google. You should see a link to it on YouTube. If the video is not on YouTube or a legitimate news site, it's a scam.

• Custom profiles

Another common scam offers to change your Facebook profile look or layout.

These scams try to trick you into installing a rogue Facebook app. If you do, you give the scammer access to your personal data.

Again, this scam is easy to avoid. Just remember, there's no official, or unofficial, way to change your Facebook layout.

• Who viewed your profile?

Knowing who views your profile is the Holy Grail of social media. Who doesn't want to know who is cyber-stalking them?

That's why this scam has been around almost as long as Facebook. No matter how often Facebook says it isn't possible, people still want to believe it is.

The best you can do is see who has unfriended you.

If you want to keep track of every scam happening on Facebook, the site Facecrooks is updated with scams as they break.

Kim Komando hosts a talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Visit http://www.komando.com/listen. Email her at techcomments@usatoday.com.

 

 
 


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