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It’s spam! Verifying things on social media

Over the last few months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I have seen dozens of facebook friends sharing spam posts that all follow a similar model. Many of them have begun by saying “with a lot of people out of work and Covid-19 keeping them out of work we know money is tighter more now than ever!” and then have some sort of alleged prize. 

“With a lot of people out of work and COVID-19 keeping them out of work we know money is tighter more now than ever!”

A cursory click onto the Facebook page that posted the content reveals a few things pretty quickly:

  1. The post is the only one on the page or is one of very few posts on a new page.
  2. There are very few likes on the page – ranging from a few hundred to a thousand, but sometimes tens of thousands because it has been shared widely in a short timeframe.
  3. The page has no blue verification checkmark. This is not always an indicator of authenticity, but in instances where the page is that of a major brand, such as Kohl’s or Walmart, the page will be verified.

I have seen a variety of topics, ranging from free $500 walmart shopping sprees, to free tiny houses, or Kohl’s $5,000 shopping giveaways. All of them have been fake, but somehow managed to get a surprising number of shares – showing up in my news feed from multiple friends and acquaintances.

In an era where we have an overwhelming amount of information being shared on facebook, I’d recommend that folks learn how to vet something before they share it. If you aren’t sure – click into the actual page and look. Has the page been around for awhile? Is there much legitimate content? Or is it just “too good to be true” giveaway content? If you can’t validate that the page is actually that of the organization it claims to be, it probably isn’t real.

Many of these posts are just an annoyance, but some of them have links where you are asked to enter personal information or sign in with facebook – something that could result in your account being hacked or the information being used against you in a further spam campaign.

If the post has a link to an obscure URL like wiuheiruhpiuj1234.aws[.]com and claims to be for Walmart.com — chances are that it isn’t real.

Be cautious, and be suspicious of what you see online – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t real.