Facebook scams use affiliate marketing sites to trick usersTue 03 Jan, 2012 // Chris Allan
Recent surveys have shown that towards the end of 2011, the majority of Facebook scams used tactics to trick users into filling out surveys in affiliate marketing sites – all in return for a non-existent incentive. It seems the social networking site is no longer only being used for phishing scams or identity theft, but also to cheat affiliate businesses too.
The cyber criminals used social-engineering tactics to encourage users to click through to the affiliate sites where they fill out paid surveys or questionnaires. These tactics include offering free goods, such as a free iPad, celebrity news or fake Facebook applications. Other tactics relied on links, often promising to show shocking videos or images. Coordinating these images with major current headlines such as the death of Bin Laden or The Royal Wedding is one of the methods used to trigger people's curiosity. The surveys generate payments for the cyber-criminals and thus cost the legitimate businesses money. Furthermore, the personal information entered into these surveys can also be used for identity theft.
These affiliate marketing scams are said to have made up three quarters of all Facebook attacks in 2011, and the trend is set to continue in 2012 too. For these scammers, the attacks themselves were not they key concern, it was the spread of the attacks, to ensure that they would continue to trick other people. While malware is somewhat to blame for this, in almost half of the cases it was the users themselves who distributed the content further by clicking on the Facebook “like” or “share” buttons.
The Facebook scammers have realised that affiliate marketing attacks can make huge profits, and all using social-engineering techniques that have been used for decades. Encouraging users to open mail or using malicious links are tactics which are now also implemented within the Facebook and social networking sphere.
Facebook was the focus of much debate surrounding privacy and advertising in 2011 and steps have been taken by the EU to ban this sort of marketing on Facebook, as it labelled it too intrusive.
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