BBB: Avoiding click-bait scam tips

Published on Saturday, 16 August 2014 23:36 - Written by Mechele Agbayani Mills Tyler Better Business Bureau

With readers unable to resist trending news, and with social media taking hold of our society, scam artists are cashing in on a user’s inquisitive nature through a method called click-baiting.

Click-baiting is a term used to describe a type of hyperlink which entices a visitor to click to continue reading an article. The method is used by online marketers who rely on curiosity to increase traffic to their websites. Unfortunately, this tactic also is used by scam artists as an attempt to obtain account numbers, passwords, or any other kind of personal information. BBB cautions consumers to be aware of the red flags of click bait scams.

Click-baiting is nothing new; it has been used for years to drive online engagement, however, it also is used by unscrupulous individuals for unethical reasons. The bigger and more controversial the news story the bigger the opportunity for scammers.

Like most scams, there are several variations to the click-bait con. A post on social media or in an email captures the user’s attention. The user then clicks on the link, believing it leads to a news site. Instead, they are taken to an unfamiliar, third party website. A pop up may appear prompting the user to update their video player. This link then begins downloading malicious applications, which may give the scam artist the right to post in the name of the user, access to his or her messages, or send chat messages to friends. Or, the link may redirect the user to a survey with links to misleading applications or malicious sites.

BBB provides steps to protect yourself and others from click-baiting scams:

 Don’t take the bait. Stay away from promotions of “exclusive,” “shocking” or “sensational” footage. If it sounds too outlandish to be true, refrain from clicking.

 Hover over a link to see its true destination. Before you click, mouse over the link to see where it will take you. Don’t click on links leading to unfamiliar websites. Go to legitimate websites in a new window to search for the story.

 Refrain from sharing or liking these types of posts. Keep in mind, the friend’s account you are clicking on may have been hacked. But it also may be clickjacking, a technique which scammers use to trick users into clicking on malicious links.

 Use caution when filling out surveys. Scammers are using online surveys, offering gift cards, cash payment or deep discounts, as a way to steal identities or elicit payment for worthless goods. As the survey draws you in with easy, harmless questions, it builds momentum toward personal and potentially harmful questions.

 Report it. Report scam posts and other suspicious activity to your social media or email provider.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline, 903-581-8373.