Free Gift Cards – The New Scammer’s Fad?

April 15, 2010
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Since the advent of the internet and ATMs, scammers have constantly been on the prowl for unsuspecting victims to gain them access to money and personal information. Identity theft, the embezzling of someone else’s money by gaining access to their personal information, is a common scam in the U.S. However, this has been fought hard by credit card companies offering customers to cancel suspicious purchases. Now, at the widespread expansion of social media, scammers have found a new approach for swindling their victims – the social networking giant, Facebook.

The use of fan pages on Facebook is the major system of approach for scammers on the website. Since anyone can make a fan page, it is quite easy for scammers to set these scam pages up. Many offer free gift certificate to well-known stores such as Ikea, Walmart, and Bestbuy. According to the New York Times, a fan page scam offering a $1,000 Ikea gift card affected more than 70,000 Facebook users. These fan pages currently lead victims to marketing sites, asking for their information in exchange for the “gift card,” which the victim would never receive. The websites use this information to study market demographics for advertisements. According to Simon Axten, a Facebook representative, this is currently the only purpose for these scams. However, Audri Lanford, co-founder of the Scambusters website, suggests that the same fake gift card scam has been connected to identity theft and computer viruses.

According to the New York Times, Axten has recently stated that the fake gift card scams are only a small difficulty on the website, but he could not specify the amount of users that had become fans of these scam pages. Currently, Facebook only has a small group of employees on the problem. The group works by deleting any group, fan page, or application that is a scam as quick as possible, according to, which refers to this as “the social networking version of whack-a-mole.” In an e-mail to, Axten stated, "We're quickly removing the groups and pages in many cases before they go viral." In the same e-mail interview, Axten reported that Facebook is trying to tackle the problem by “building an automated system to detect this type of suspicious content and behavior more quickly before it’s even reported.”
Facebook users should definitely be wary of the groups they join and the pages they become fans of. Simon Axten’s advice to users is to “be suspicious of anything that looks or feels strange online - whether it’s an unfamiliar link in a message from a friend who hasn’t contacted you in a while or a promise of something valuable if you invite friends, provide personal information, or download software.” Facebook users should also look out for the pages’ authenticity. Pages that don’t seem to be very official may be scams. As put it, “large retailers typically have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of fans, and a slick look with top-quality graphics. And watch out for pages that only exist in order to promote the free card offer — a page with the word ‘offer’ in its name, might be a scam, for example.”

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