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By Steve Kelman

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A truly effective Facebook scam :(

As I have written about before, scams are proliferating on Facebook, and it is scary that a number of them are really well done -- not like the opportunities to work with Nigerian "government officials" that everyone deletes in a nanosecond, or even the obvious ones with status updates from Facebook friends that ask you to click on a picture of an attractive woman stripping or something.
 
There is now a scam going around that has landed as a status update post on the Facebook pages of many Kennedy School students and actually caught a number of them. It invites you to link to a site that will take your picture and show you, by computer transformation, what you will look like when you are old. The post shows a picture of a gnarled old guy.
 
Based on Facebook chats I've seen since these phony status updates began proliferating a few days ago, a number of students have actually clicked through to the scam site. Many people who had their accounts hijacked to send out the phony update have posted warnings on Facebook urging friends not to click through. A number of students who fell for the scam or came close wrote that, for a lot of young people, the idea of seeing a computer image of yourself as an old person is very intriguing. This is what makes this scam so dangerous -- it displays good knowledge of human psychology.
 
I also saw a post from an Israeli student at the Kennedy School who is interested in cybersecurity, noting that anybody who clicked through might end up with their computer used as a botnet to engage in an attack to bring down the Ukrainian banking system -- and urging classmates to "like" the Kennedy School Cyber Security Caucus page on Facebook, which she promised would provide useful information on avoiding cyber problems. (Click here to go to that page.)
 
One additional troubling feature of this scam is that I only saw it on status updates from students on Facebook. People like me don't need to see a computer image of what we will look like when we get older -- we only need to look in the mirror. This suggests at least that the scammer can screen the Facebook account by birth year, which many people make available on their Facebook pages -- implying that the scammers have massive access to Facebook account information.
 
Anybody else see this scam? Any older Facebook members have their accounts hijacked with this scam, or only younger ones?

Posted on Apr 26, 2011 at 7:26 PM


Reader Comments

Fri, Apr 29, 2011

The real scandal is not the scams themselves, but the facility with which computers are compromised by clicking on a wrong site. I keep being amused how successfully the computer industry has trained its customers: in other industries customers would picket the producers with pitchforks if, say, cars would fall apart just because you turned into a random street.

Fri, Apr 29, 2011 Steve Kelman

Gorgonzola, what do you think? I look younger now than at 45, right? :)

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 Gorgonzola

I had the strangest experience with this scam. I fell for it, clicked through, and found, rather than an aged picture of me, a picture of Prof. Steve Kelman at 45.

Wed, Apr 27, 2011

Well, by using facebook (essentially a glorified BBS web site) instead of real email, to keep in touch with friends and family, they have already proven that they are fad followers. Can't say that I have a lot of sympathy for them. FB won't be happy until new computers come up in FB as the default, when you open the browser. They want nothing less than to replace the traditional internet, just like internet and web replaced dial-up BBS systems.

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