How ‘like farming’ on social media can put you at risk

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – “Liking” a post on social media is a daily occurrence for most people. Some experts say liking posts could open people up to scammers.

People and pages are always asking for likes and shares on social media. There’s a whole group of scammers out there collecting those likes and shares. They treat them almost like an electronic crop and harvest them, which gave rise to the term “like farming.” It’s become a bumper crop for criminals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like farming, according to Alyssa Parker with the Better Business Bureau, is a common practice on social media. Online posts will offer things like a free computer or even cash, but what they’re really after is a large number of viewers. Posts will urge people to like and share a photo, or require a comment.

“They can get your information if you input it,” Parker said. “They can also gather a lot of your Facebook information from your Facebook shares.”

Criminals can also use that data to infect your computer with malware. Data can also be sold on the black market.

Sometimes criminals will switch out the original post and replace it with something suspicious. They then use the likes and shares to “recommend” the suspicious item they are pitching to make it look popular and legitimate. It’s a form of data mining. People are at risk because they have no idea who is on the receiving end of the post that was liked or shared.

 “You never know what these social media sites are getting,” Parker said. “It could be your location, what your likes and interests are, or anything else.”

When determining what is fake and what is real, anything involving a brand name or service will have a verification indicator. It is a small, blue check mark next to the company name.

Fake posts using brand names will not have that mark.

“If you see a big brand name without that blue check mark, there’s a good chance it’s a scam so avoid it all costs,” Parker said.

MalwareBytes Labs said other indicators of like farming are captions for pictures that say something like “I bet that this doesn’t get a million likes” or “90 percent fail this test” or “send this to 10 of your friends.”

Hoax-Slayer is a good resource for alerts about like farming. It has an extensive list of examples and is always adding new ones.

The best advice? Look before you like.

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