The Hattiesburg, Mississippi police department recently issued a warning about increased reports of a scam in which scammers appear to share posts on Facebook buy-sell groups about a missing child.  Quite often, people on the buy-sell group will share the post in an effort to help find the missing child.  Once the post has been shared in large numbers, the scammer then edits the post to share a wide variety of scams instead of the original post dealing with a fictional missing child.  In this way, the scammer gets unsuspecting people to help spread a scam to large numbers of people.  When they make these posts the scammers often disable comments so that if someone sees the post, they won’t see comments from people who have identified the post as a scam.

Scammers take advantage of Facebook’s algorithms that value the popularity measured by likes and shares which causes the posts to appear on the Facebook pages of more people.  Although the original content liked or shared may appear sincere, the scammers who use this technique, which is called “farming,” then are able to change the content of the post to something entirely different from what was originally shared or liked.  This is done for purposes of sending advertising or gathering marketing information, but, at its worst, it  also can be used to send malware infected content such as keystroke logging malware that can steal personal information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.


So what should you do?

You may wish to be a bit skeptical before automatically sharing or liking a post. You may wish to even do a little research yourself to find out if the posting is legitimate.   A 2007 photo of a seven year old Pennsylvania girl with Stage IV cancer posing in her cheerleading uniform has been used numerous times for Facebook farming.  Today that girl is a cancer free young woman whose family is understandably outraged that their daughter’s photograph has been abused by scammers through Facebook farming.

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