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Beware of Dubious Facebook "Free Offer" Groups

Outline
Facebook groups that offer users supposedly free items or services such as Facebook site enhancements or extra Facebook game items and updates may require participants to sign up for expensive SMS phone services.




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Last updated: 18th March 2010
First published: 18th March 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Analysis
An increasing number of "free offer" groups are appearing on social networking website, Facebook. These groups supposedly allow Facebook members to gain access to such things as enhanced site services, extra elements for Facebook games such as Farmville, eligibility to enter competitions and various other "offers". Such groups are usually promoted via "Page Suggestion" links or status updates.

However, many of these groups are not what they seem and hold potential traps for the unwary. Typically, such groups require uses to follow several steps before they can gain access to the promised item. Firstly the user is required to become a fan of the group. Secondly, the user must invite all his or her friends to join the group. Thirdly, the user is instructed to use Facebook's "Share" function to post information about the group to the profiles of his or her Facebook friends. These steps ensure that such groups grow rapidly, sometimes gaining hundreds of thousands of members within a few days.

Once the user has completed these prerequisite steps, he or she is instructed to click a button supposedly to complete the process and finally gain access to the offer. However, clicking the button still does not finalize the procedure. Instead, it takes the user away from Facebook to another website where he or she is instructed to complete an online quiz. To complete the quiz, the user must enter a mobile phone number on the website. Terms and conditions on the page explain that by submitting the mobile phone number, the user is in fact signing up for a regular SMS phone service that will charge hefty fees. Typically, these fees consist of a joining fee of $6.60 and then further fees of $6.60 for each message sent to the phone at the rate of two messages per week. These expensive messages will continue until the user unsubscribes from the service by sending a "stop" text message to a specified number.

Thus, the primary purpose of these Facebook groups is to persuade people to subscribe to a very expensive SMS phone service. In many cases, the actual "offer" promoted in the group may not exist or may seriously misrepresent what the user actually receives. And, even if the "offer" is actually legitimate, the user will only receive it after subscribing to an absurdly over priced SMS subscription service.

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Last updated: 18th March 2010
First published: 18th March 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer