Facebook Like-Farming Scams
An increasing number of bogus Pages appearing on Facebook are designed to do nothing more than artificially increase their popularity by tricking users into "liking" them. This tactic has come to be known as "like-farming". The goal of these unscrupulous like-farmers is to increase the value of Facebook Pages so that they can be sold on the black market to other scammers and/or used to market dubious products and services and distribute further scams. The more likes a Page has, the more resale and marketing value it commands.
How like-farming works
Here's how a typical like-farming scam operates. The scammers first create a new Facebook Page geared to a certain product or service such as smartphones, gaming consoles, beauty products, or theme parks. The Page may state or imply that it is an official Page endorsed by a company such as Samsung, Apple, Sony or Disneyland and include stolen graphics that depict the targeted company's products.
The Page then begins posting messages claiming that it will be giving away free products to selected users:
But, nobody actually wins anything. Ever. The prizes do not even exist. The promised prizes are just the bait used to entice users into liking the page and sharing the promotional posts. By getting people to click the like button as well as spam out the bogus promotions by sharing them with their friends, these fake Pages can accumulate many thousands of likes, often within just a few hours.
Generally, a few days after the initial posting, when the first liking frenzy has died down, the scammers operating the Page will post a second - equally bogus - promotion thereby initiating a whole new round of like-harvesting. The scammers will continue posting new promotions every few days until they have gained enough likes to suit their needs.
What scammers gain out of creating like-farming Pages
When they have accumulated a large number of likes
- perhaps 100,000 or more - the scammers can then sell the Page to unscrupulous marketers. These marketers can then re-purpose the Page to suit their needs and use its large "like" base to blast out spam messages promoting their products or services. Selling Facebook Pages is clearly against Facebook's Terms of Service. Nevertheless, there is a thriving underground market for established Facebook Pages and the more likes the Page has the more that it can potentially be sold for. There are even marketplace websites and forums set up specifically to buy and sell Facebook Pages. The marketplace for Pages is quite volatile and there are significant variations in listed prices. But, a Page with 100,000 Likes can sell for $1000 or more. Often, prices are calculated on a "$ per K" basis, i.e., the seller might set a base price of - for example - $2 per thousand likes.
Like-farmers might have dozens of scam promotion Pages operating at the same time. Thus, they can make significant amounts of money out of their farming activities.
In some cases, like-farmers might rebrand the pages themselves and use them to promote products or launch further scam campaigns.
How to tell a like-farming scam from a genuine promotion or giveaway
Companies and organizations may operate legitimate Facebook driven promotions in which users receive a chance to win a prize in exchange for liking, sharing or otherwise participating. So, how can you tell if a promotion you come across on Facebook is genuine? Here's a rundown:
- Do the math!
Bogus promotions typically offer hundreds or even thousands of expensive prizes. If real, such promotions would cost very significant sums of money for the promoting company. In reality, it is vastly unlikely that any organization would give away many thousands of dollars worth of products for nothing more than a few Facebook Page "Likes". Do some quick calculations. For example, suppose that the Page is claiming that it will give iPad's to 2500 randomly chosen participants. That would work out to be several hundred thousand dollars in value for nothing more tangible than a few thousand Page likes. Such promotions are simply not economically viable.
Genuine promotions will typically offer participants a CHANCE to win a prize. They do NOT claim that several thousand participants will each receive an expensive prize. In genuine promotions, the number of prizes is likely to be limited to just a few.
The fake pages often make ridiculous assertions such as the claim that they are giving away the products because they are "unsealed". It is of course nonsensical to suggest that any company would simply give away hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products just because their packaging had been opened. The Pages often make other illogical claims that can be red flags for more astute observers. For example, the Page discussed above bills itself as a Samsung Galaxy promotion, but claims to be giving away products created by arch-rival Apple. The chances of that happening in real life are virtually nil. Some use very poor grammar and spelling in their posts, which is unlikely to occur on a genuine company Facebook Page. One recent like-farming Page supposedly offering free Disneyland tickets even misspelled "Disney" in its page address.
- Terms and Conditions?
These bogus promotions are generally very vague about what company or organization is actually offering the prizes, what the promotion is hoping to achieve, how long the promotion will run, how winners will be chosen and how they will be notified. No conditions of entry are specified. Contact details for the entity running the supposed promotion are not made available. No legal terms are outlined.
On the other hand,
genuine promotions are likely to include easily accessible terms and conditions of entry, set clear limits for the duration and giveaway values of the prizes, and make it clear what entity is responsible for the promotion.
- Newly Created Pages
Scrolling down to the bottom of many like-farming Pages reveals that they were only created a few days or weeks earlier. Big brands offering promotions are likely to have older and very well established Facebook Pages that work hand in glove with the company's official websites. Often, promotions aired on a company's Facebook Page will also be mentioned on its main website as well as its other social media streams.
Do not give the unethical people who create these pages any satisfaction. Do not like their bogus Pages. Do not share their lies. And make sure that your Facebook
friends are aware of how these scams operate so that they won't get caught out either.
Last updated: May 15, 2013
First published: May 15, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen