It’s not an exaggeration to say that online social network sites have revolutionized the Web. Every day, hundreds of people join the Web site to reconnect with old acquaintances and make new friends.
But helping people make connections with each other is just one of Facebook’s qualities. Another important element is that Facebook allows application developers to create small programs called apps (short for applications) and use Facebook as a platform. In a way, Facebook is acting like an operating system, it provides the foundation for smaller applications that tap into the social network’s resources.
Arguably, the most important resource is Facebook’s user base. Building an app can be time-consuming and challenging; however, Facebook’s community includes millions of people, and that gives developers a built-in audience for their work. Without this audience, developers could end up working long hours, creating a program that no one sees or uses. But the nature of Facebook’s community helps developers spread their work virally. Facebook members grab the application after seeing it on a friend’s profile and soon thousands of people are enjoying the app.
Why do developers create apps?
Some developers just want to create a fun application for people to enjoy. The app enhances the user experience on a social network. Others are building programs that are part of a marketing strategy they hope the application will nudge users to purchase a particular product or subscribe to a service. A few create applications that gather data in order to create targeted advertising. And some are taking advantage of the open nature of Facebook to create malicious programs or run scams in an effort to con users or cause mischief.
How can you avoid these scams? What should you do if you fall victim to one?
Facebook apps come in dozens of varieties with hundreds of examples in each category. There are quizzes, games, tools and other apps that let you rank everything from your favorite albums to the celebrities you’d like to meet. Each of these apps requires you to install a few lines of code to your Facebook profile. From your point of view, all you have to do is click a button on a page, indicate that you accept the user agreement and install the app.
Facebook scam warning signs
There are several indicators that can usually clue you in to a scam. Two major red flags that something underhanded is going on are a request for a password or credit card information. Scammers collect passwords or credit card numbers and use that information to take advantage of the victims. These requests might seem perfectly innocent in the context of the app but they should set off alarm bells in your mind. Again, do a little legwork and research the app before you take the plunge.
If an app tries to take you to a new page, pay attention to that page’s domain name. Some scammers are clever enough to create a mockup of a real Facebook page with a request for your password. If the domain name seems fishy, you shouldn’t insert your password. Pop-up messages that advise you to download or install an additional application after you’ve already started the process are another potential sign of malware. Installing these programs may infect your computer with a virus.
Facebook provides a form for victims of phishing attacks. Phishing refers to the practice of tricking people into sharing private information like credit card numbers and social security numbers. One of the more common phishing scams is known by two names: the Nigerian scam or the 419 scam.
The basic scam goes like this: The person sending the message claims that he or she has a large sum of money that’s being held up in another country. With your help, this person will be able to free up the money and will give you an enormous reward. But to get the money, the person needs some of your money first. This is just a cover story, the person is really trying to steal your money. If you see a message like that, you should use the form provided by Facebook to make them aware of the problem.