Hundreds of thousands of Facebook users have been fooled into believing that they will receive a hat with a large smiley face on it, and could potentially be putting themselves at risk of being scammed in the process.
Over 300,000 people so far have been tricked into liking a Facebook page, and sharing the link with their friends, in the dubious belief that they will be sent a free smiley hat to promote a firm's new clothing line.
The message reads:
First 750,000 Get a Free Smiley Hat To Help Promote Our New Clothing Line.
1 - Join The Page 2 - Click on the share button (bottom left hand side of the page) You must do this too get your FREE hat! 3 - Write on the wall what color you want ( White - Black - Red ) 4 - After roughly 6 hours, you will have an email sent to your facebook account for shipping information 5 - Enjoy your NEW hat! :) ** All Countries Can Get Their Hat **
Sure enough, if you follow the page's instructions you will share it with your Facebook friends - thus helping the message to spread virally.
But do you really believe that you are going to be sent a smiley hat? And who is this un-named company that is planning to ask 750,000 people for their name and postal address? Is it possible they are planning to do anything else with that information if you hand it over to them?
And what - seriously - are the chances that they are going to spend the money shipping that many hats to people who don't even know what brand it is that they are promoting.
It all sounds very strange to me - and there is clearly an opportunity for a scam. For instance, once the organisers of this page have created their fan club of 750,000 user they could send a message to all of them containing a malicious link or a pointer to a phishing site.
And take a look at this.
There has been another message spreading rapidly across Facebook, claiming that there are 200,000 free pairs of Vans shoes up for grabs - and it's using a very similar message.
First 200,000 Get A Free Pair Of Vans To Help Promote Our New Range.
1 - Join The Page 2 - Click on the share button (bottom left hand side of the page) You must do this too get your FREE Vans! 3 - Write on the wall what colour and size you want! 4 - 31 days after you join you will have an email sent to your facebook account for shipping information. Once again this will only happen if the page has been shared. ** All Countries Can Be Shipped To **
Hmm.. seems to me that the similar wording and modus operandi is far from a coincidence. And the Facebook pages have a very similar design - it's just the bait which has been changed.
And if you dig around a little, you'll find that Vans themselves have warned that the promotion is nothing to do with them.
Vans say that you will not get the shoes if the you like the Facebook page, and that the messages are entirely bogus. I strongly suspect that the smiley hat messages fall into the same category.
If you "Like" a page run by scammers, they can use it as a way to communicate with you - and potentially pass dangerous web links or attempt to steal personal information from you.
Don't make it easy for the criminals on Facebook, and always think hard before believing every "sounds-too-good-to-be-true" offer on the social network.
If you use Facebook and want to get an early warning about the latest scams and attacks, you should join the Sophos Facebook page where we have a thriving community of over 100,000 people.Follow @gcluley