We have all seen it.

  • “For those of you who do not recognize him, this is a picture of Bill Gates. By simply Liking and Sharing this, he will give you $5,000.”
  • “Disney had a good year! To celebrate that we have made $2.3 billion in revenue this year, we are giving away a trip for four to Disney World! Just Like and Share this post to be entered! The winner will be chosen at random and inboxed on September 23, 2013.”

The latest one I’ve come across is a Community:

  • “South West Airlines.” They post the following picture and claim they are giving away 20 tickets to Las Vegas and 5 winners will each receive 4 tickets. Winners will be chosen at random and announced on a certain date. In order to be entered, all you have to do is “Like and Share”.

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^Take above comments, replace trip to Disney World with Disneyland, Disney Cruise, Royal Caribbean Cruise lines, JetBlu, Hilton – or any other popular travel entity or destination and you’ve likely seen a post exactly like this. My hope is that you did not like and share it as instructed. I’ll explain why it’s a problem below.

The motive behind this post: I hope to spread awareness regarding the dangers of mindless “Like and Share”ing on social media. I am aware that this sounds like a ridiculous statement to make but I say it with complete seriousness and sincerity, unfortunately. This is what it has come to.

First of all, most of these are obvious scams if you just stop to look for a minute. Look above to my Disney example. They are claiming to be happy about making $2.3 billion in revenue FOR THE YEAR. THEY MAKE MORE THAN THIS EVERY SINGLE QUARTER!!! If all they made in the entire year was a couple billion, you would know it. The shareholders would be pissed – it’d be all over the media. I can see the headlines now… “Disney’s going bankrupt!” “Disney: feeling the recession.” Etcetera. We silly non-millionaires would be disgusted by how angry they were for ONLY making $2billion. Disney owns EVERYthing, everyone knows this, no?

Also for what it’s worth ‘Like & Share’ promotions are a direct violation of Facebook’s user terms. Sure there are giveaways… it’s called PROMOTIONS and TAX WRITE OFFS and MARKETING EXPENSES– and it’s all over the media. Think back. Surely you’ve ooohh’d and aaahh’d over the photos of the Cinderella Castle suite that made the media because someone got to stay in it.

Second of all, there’s the old, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is” motto. Didn’t your parents teach you that? Mine did, and it turns out they were right. Imagine that… parents being right about something. (I know, now I’m just talking crazy.)

Again, stop and think just for a second. I know, I know – we have become a society that doesn’t have to do very much for ourselves thanks to the wonderful advances of technology. But THINKING should be something that we never give up! (More importantly, thinking for ourselves but … I digress.)

Now: look back up at my Southwest example. Notice the page is entitled “South West Airlines.”  Notice the subtle (or not-so-subtle) giveaways. They’ve made Southwest into two words and – wait for it… added a period. Come on people, I know you’re smarter than that. If you fell for that, do me a favor and smack yourself.

One more observation I’d like to point out about these particular scams. When they have a date – see above where I quoted, “… the winner will be announced on September 23, 3013….”  I guarantee you on September 22, 2013  THE PAGE VANISHES.  Am I really the only one who’s noticed this?

I’m not here to call you stupid: You are not stupid. These scams are designed to suck you in and a lot of thought went into how to do that.

People that I admire, respect and know to be intelligent commonly fall for the above-mentioned scams. And here is the answer I get, without fail, every single time I ask them if they really believe they might win something for nothing: “Yea, I know it’s probably fake but I’ve got nothing to lose by hitting Like & Share!”  Listen [read] carefully now because that is where you are WRONG. You do in fact, have everything to lose by simply hitting Like and Share on these posts and many others.

All of these are Phishing scams. If you do not know by now, exactly what Phishing is then get off the internet.

To be specific I will share more. I own a company that can do basically anything when it comes to technology. Yea, we mainly sell Apps but we’ve got mad skills that got us to this point. [Insert shameless plug for www.tmaxtechnologies.com here]. No, clearly I am not above that, thanks for asking. 🙂

Seriously though – when you click Like and Share on these posts – that are telling you to do just that, as soon as you hit the ‘Share’ button, the code that is encrypted in the picture you’re sharing takes over the JavaScript in your browser. Next, it installs an extension in your browser and adds itself to your computer’s application’s whitelist, giving it all access to all system devices. (Translated into non-geek: This includes your webcam, your microphone and your hard drive.) Now they are able to watch you, to listen to you and if you have ever banked or shopped online they have gained access to your information such as sign ins, passwords, security questions, credit card and bank account numbers, etc. This of course being their ultimate goal, but it’s not all they do. Now that they are spying on you, they can cater the advertisements you see to you based on what they’ve learned about you.

There’s more…. 

They also add an event tracker to your system’s native calendar so that they can track what you’re doing.  In other words, for example: you’re thinking of booking a vacation. You go to what you believe to be Hilton.com (or Carnival Cruises, or Disney’s booking site, a travel agent or a rental car site –you get the idea). They have actually redirected you, unbeknownst to you to their own fake version of whatever site you typed into your browser. Now – maybe you’re buying tickets,  putting deposits on a cruise, a rental car, a room, etc. Or you THINK you are. Really, they’ve gotten your money and you’ve got no valid tickets or reservations. Better yet – for them – they‘ now have your payment information. Identity theft has just occurred – all because you Liked and Shared a silly post without thinking or taking a moment to investigate whether there’s any validity to it.

[Don’t believe me? This happens dozens of times, every single day at the multiple resorts I ran. Guests show up with their reservation numbers, their ‘paid for’ dining plans, their meal reservations, etc. and we have NOTHING in our system. Because from our point of view –they didn’t book or pay us for anything. We were the ones left to make it right, they were the ones rendered with no way to pay because they’d maxxed out their cards and accounts paying for what they thought was this trip.]

Yes this is a felony, they are getting busted all the time, and popping back up under new names. Their possibilities are endless – (they’ve even stooped so low as to use fake Amber Alerts – more to come on this in another post) this is why you should THINK and exercise the ole ‘Like & Share’ with reservation!!!!

Please comment or email me with questions – this is serious. And, for what it’s worth, rather than Liking, Sharing, and taking all your so-called “Friends” or contacts down with you, what you should do when see these posts  is REPORT them as scam or spam. You can visit www.snopes.com to at least check your facts before sharing things – they have articles regarding many of the latest scams (including the ones mentioned by yours truly right here!).  You can also use this handy search engine , you may have heard of it:

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In the 1-2 minutes you need to verify something, you can save yourself and your contacts major headaches and even devastation.  All by just THINKING before you so callously “Like and Share”.

I’m not asking that much here. We all know that CAPS IS INTERNET YELLING and exercise this and other ‘internet etiquette’. So how about we add ‘Thinking’ and ‘Being Informed’ to the list. On social media, more often than not: NOT sharing is caring, folks.

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