Beware of 'liking' posts to win flights, cars -- chances are it's a hoax.
Janice Ponce de Leon, Staff Reporter
Dubai: If you're one of the thousands who liked and shared a Facebook post that promised to give away year-long first-class flights from a Dubai-based airline this week, don't expect to win anything. The airline is not giving away any such prizes.
Scammers used the name of Emirates and its 'Fly Emirates' logo to lure users to engage with them by "liking and sharing" this free giveaway contest with the promise that "2,000 lucky fans will receive free first class flights for an entire year to celebrate serving 200 million passengers".
When Gulf News spotted the "promo", more than 32,000 people had shared it and more than 19,000 people "liked" it.
Emirates denied any connection to the bogus Facebook page and to the contest.
"The recent competition on Facebook offering free flights is a hoax and has nothing to do with Emirates," Emirates spokesperson told Gulf News.
"Our competitions are always run from our officially verified social media channels. Emirates has been working with Facebook to have these pages removed."
The fake Facebook page was taken down following Gulf News inquiry with Emirates.
But this is not the first time Emirates' name was used as a marketing ploy by scammers on Facebook. In 2015, Emirates issued a similar warning about a fake ticket giveaway.
This practice is called 'like-farming' where scammers set up Facebook pages solely dedicated to getting as many "likes" or "shares" to achieve a "high popularity rating" based on Facebook's standards.
Once the page achieves this, the page is then used to "spread malware, collect people's marketing information or engage in other harmful activities; or outright sells the highly liked site to cybercriminals in a black market web forum," according to US-based ConsumerAffairs.com.
Tom King, senior digital solutions manager at House of Comms, which specialises in social media, said like-farming is a growing issue in the UAE.
"From our observations, the most common tactic is to run a fake competition offering you the chance to win a prize. Most often a prize of significant value such as a flight or car. I, too, have come across the Emirates Airline competition on more than one occasion in the past 12 months," King told Gulf News.
King said not many Facebook users are aware of how to manage their account's privacy settings. The absence of proper gatekeeping leaves one in danger of giving out his or her social profile such as age, gender, location, among others, which have commercial value to data miners.
King said most often than not, many users just click that ubiquitous thumbs up button without checking whether the post is genuine or not.
"Once you start giving away this data, you can be targeted by scammers or hackers who may try and steal your identity by posing as you in an online environment. Hacking emails and social profiles may uncover your credit card information which is then used to purchase items online resulting in monetary theft.
"Our message to the public is to be vigilant with the pages and competitions that they like and engage with on social media. Manage your security and privacy settings for your social profiles. Do your research, only engage with brands that you know and trust."
How to protect yourself from like-farmers
1) Before "liking" a page, sharing a post or participating in any social media competition, make sure first that the page representing any brand, agency, or media entity is a verified account. This comes as a blue check mark right after the brand name. Hover your curser over the icon and it will show that Facebook has authenticated the page.
2) Check the "About" section of the page. Like-farming pages are usually just recently set up and have no verifiable details on its account. Check the date the page was created.
3) Check the timeline and all details they share. Any official brand will have official content. You will get a sense of it when you browse the page and see copy-pasted content.
4) Review apps and pages that you have liked and have given permission to access in your settings on Facebook every 2-3 months. To do this, click on the "View Activity Log" and click on the "Likes" filter.
What is like-farming
In like-farming, scammers set up Facebook pages solely dedicated to getting as many "likes" or "shares" to achieve a "high popularity rating" based on Facebook's standards.
Once the page achieves this, the page is then used to spread malware, collect people's marketing information or engage in other harmful activities or sell the highly liked site to cybercriminals in a black market web forum, according to US-based ConsumerAffairs.com.
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