Each week, the NTIC Cyber Center highlights a different social engineering scam impacting individuals and communities within the National Capital Region. We encourage everyone to share this information with friends, colleagues, and loved ones to help reduce their risk of becoming a victim of financial fraud and identity theft.
Like-farming, also known as like-harvesting, is a social engineering technique that fraudsters employ to increase online engagement and boost the popularity of social media posts and pages. Those who use this method – known as like-farmers – create new social media pages and use them to post images, popular quotes, or memes designed to garner attention from social media users by encouraging them to “like” and “share” the posts to their personal pages. These posts attempt to elicit an emotional response from social media users by using political issues, religion, or sad images to persuade them to engage with the post, thereby increasing the page’s reach to others. They may even claim that, if a post acquires a certain number of “likes” or “shares,” those who engaged with the post will win a prize.
Once the social media pages reach a high threshold of user engagement, the like-farmers either sell the pages to criminals on underground marketplaces or they create new posts designed to promote scams such as pyramid schemes, illegal online casinos, or fake surveys with the intent of harvesting sensitive information or delivering malware to victims. Because the algorithms used by social media platforms are designed to automatically push popular content to the top of users’ “timelines” or “newsfeeds,” the visibility of these posts increases which, in turn, improves the fraudsters’ chances of victimizing additional people.
The NTIC Cyber Center recommends all social media users review the following guidelines for identifying and avoiding like-farming schemes:
If a social media post elicits an immediate emotional response, do not “like,” “share,” or comment on it. Instead, report the post to the associated social media platform as it likely violates the company’s terms of service. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram provide guidance to users on how to report suspicious posts, pages, and profiles.
Social media posts that promise free prizes or money if you “like” or “share” them are likely scams. Remember that, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you see friends or family members engaging with these types of social media posts, be sure to inform them that they are perpetuating a scam and recommend that they delete or “unlike” the post or page.
If you are following a social media page that suddenly begins posting suspicious content or content that deviates from the page’s previous posts, be aware that the page may have been sold to criminals or hijacked by hackers to commit like-farming fraud. Unfollow the page immediately and report it to the associated social media platform.
If you are unsure if a social media post is a scam, visit a reputable fact-checking website such as Hoax-Slayer.net to see if there are any recent reports about that type of post.