In the age of social media, it’s become easy for people to reach out to the rest of the world. This has its benefits, especially during moments of crisis. We’ve seen people all over the world heeding requests for help done through a Facebook post. Unfortunately, there are scammers who will take advantage of people’s innate kindness.
These scammers are called “like-farmers.” Their objective is to gather as many likes as they can for a certain Facebook page. To do this, they often appeal to people’s sympathy. They resort to emotional blackmail. Thus, they use photos of sick children. These children are genuinely sick and their loved ones probably posted legitimate appeals for help on Facebook, too.
Bitter truth: There are scammers lurking on Facebook.
Unknown to the families of the sick kids, the like-farmers simply take the children’s photos and use them for their own purposes. This practice has been tagged as “sick baby hoaxes.”
These posts usually have a standard spiel discussing the sick child. They usually contain requests such as, “Like my page, share this post, and type ‘Amen’ to heal me.” Some also claim that $1 will be donated to the baby for every like, share, or “Amen” in the comments.
We’ve all seen something like this on our FB feeds.
A Bright Side article explained that when you heed any of these requests, you’re actually “doing real harm by increasing their popularity.” Why? Well, because the scammer essentially profits from using a stolen image of a suffering animal or a sick baby whose family has no idea their photo is being used by someone else.
So, how exactly does the scam work? Consumer Affairs offers a detailed explanation which we have broken down in steps.
Sometimes scammers use stock images of random babies.
1. Facebook’s algorithms place a high value on popularity — which is measured by likes, shares, and other forms of user engagement such as comments.
2. Therefore, the Facebook pages or posts that get the most likes, shares, comments have a much higher chance of being highlighted in people’s feeds and being seen by other Facebook users.
3.Once the level of the page’s popularity is high enough, the like-farmer or scammer could do a number of things, as enumerated below:
a. He or she could remove the page’s original content and replace it with something else (usually malware or scam advertising).
b. He or she could also leave the page as is and use it as a platform for continued like-farming in order to spread malware, collect people’s information, or engage in other harmful activities.
c. He or she could sell the highly-liked site to cybercriminals in a black market Web forum.
These posts exploit people’s desire to help.
While typing “Amen” won’t necessarily give the scammer access to your vital information, you make yourself vulnerable by doing so. If you type “Amen,” scammers will identify you as a person who is easily manipulated by emotional pleas. That gives them an opening to obtain more information about you.
It’s not that you should stop being kind. You should just make sure that the people you help in social media are really those who are caught in a crisis. You must make sure that they’re not scammers pretending to need assistance.
Scammers are counting on you to click without thinking.
As blogger Courtney Westlake reminds us,
“When it comes to posts like this, one share does NOT equal one prayer. One like does NOT mean you think the baby with a physical disability or difference is ‘still cute.’ One comment does NOT mean the sick child or abused puppy ‘will be saved.'”
These “sick baby hoax” posts have infected Facebook.
Bottom line: Your Facebook responses won’t really make a difference to the the animal or child who is suffering. Unless, of course, you’re sure that you’re interacting with the child’s family. Otherwise, you’re only unwittingly helping a bunch of ruthless scammers earn from hijacked photos.
When it comes to FB, think hard before you like, share, or comment.
If you really want to help anyone who is suffering, get in touch with their families or caregivers. You can send your messages of hope, dedicate your prayers, and any form of help directly to them.
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