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Another Useless Facebook Warning: 'Scammers Blocking Facebook Group Admins'

Outline
Message circulating on Facebook warns that scammers are blocking admins on all Facebook Groups so that the group admins cannot see the scam posts that are being put on the group pages.



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Analysis and references below example.





Last updated: 1st May 2012
First published: 1st May 2012
Research by David White, Brett Christensen
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
THIS IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM ADMIN , THERES A NEW SCAM GOING ROUND..... PLEASE WARN ALL OTHER GROUPS AS MANY AS YOU CAN....... THE PAYDAY LOAN SCAM...... ALSO AN AMERICAN TRAINER SCAM , THE PEOPLE ADVERTISING THESE ARE NOW BLOCKING ADMINS ON ALL GROUPS SO THEY CANT SEE THE POSTS THEY ARE PUTTING UP ABOUT THESE SCAMS. AND CONSTANTLY ADVERTISING THEM. THE CULPRITS SO FAR... ARE A ...... "SARAH RITCHIE" AND A " MEGAN JOHNSON " BECKY SMITH. , PLEASE PLEASE ITS ABSOLUTELY VITAL YOU SPREAD THE WORD ROUND ALL THE GROUPS YOUR ON , AND LET ADMIN KNOW STRAIGHT AWAY. FACEBOOK HAVE BEEN INFORMED ABOUT THIS.



Analysis
This breathless, ALL CAPS warning message is currently rocketing rapidly around Facebook. According to the message, scammers are blocking the admins in all Facebook Groups in order to post their scam messages unhindered. The way the "warning" is written implies that these scammers are somehow able to take control of the groups so that admins cannot see the material that is being posted. The message goes so far as to name three individuals that are supposedly responsible for the scam attack. The message also asks that users "spread the word" and let their group admins know straight away about the perceived threat.

However, the message is simply too garbled and misleading to have any real merit as a warning. Firstly, scammers are not taking direct control of Facebook Groups whenever and wherever they feel like it and blocking the legitimate admins as implied in the message. To hijack a Facebook group in this manner, the scammer would need to first procure an admin's login details. The scammer might do this by tricking an admin into responding to a phishing scam message that asks for his or her login details. Or, the scammer could perhaps trick the admin into installing an information stealing trojan on his or her computer. However, regardless of what sinister desires they might have, scammers cannot simply hijack a Facebook group at random and lock out its admins.

That said, since I first published this article, admins and other Facebook users have suggested that the warning may be in fact be referring to another potential issue with how Facebook Groups work rather than the direct hijacking of Groups. If a spammer joins a group on Facebook and then blocks that group's Admin, the Admin will not be able to view the spammer's Facebook account, as would be expected. However, this block will also apparently stop the admin from seeing or removing posts that the spammer makes in the group. Thus, the spammer is then able to post his spam to the group, safe in the knowledge that the group admin will not be able to see or delete his posts.

Unfortunately, the message is far from clear in its explanation of the issue, and is likely to simply confuse many recipients rather than help them keep their groups safe. And, the message makes no effort to explain how Group Admins might combat such a threat should it come their way. To counter the threat, groups would be wise to have more than one admin available and have a trusted user who could step up to play an admin role if required.

A concerning aspect of this "warning" is that it actually names people that it claims are responsible for the supposed scam attack. But it does not provide the slightest shred of evidence that the named individuals have done anything wrong whatsoever. Moreover, the listed names are quite common and likely to be shared by a great many people around the world. Thus, reposting this has the potential to unfairly damage the reputations of entirely innocent people.

In its current form, the message does not explain the perceived problem in any meaningful way and therefore its effectiveness as a warning is dubious at best. And, it may also have a negative impact on users who have done nothing wrong.

Editors note: Thanks to Craig at ThatNonsense.com for his assistance on this issue. ThatsNonsense also has an article about this "warning" message here.

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Last updated: 1st May 2012
First published: 1st May 2012
Research by David White, Brett Christensen
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer