Scammers are hijacking Facebook accounts to send bogus "invites" to win an Apple iPad. But the only thing that will earn you is an invitation to be harassed by spammers and telemarketers.
Today, I received an invitation to an "Free! #iPad! Event!" allegedly from someone in my Facebook friends list.
That immediately tripped my mental Scam Alert, so I contacted the sender. Naturally, he did not send it, though I was the second person to mention this to him in the past week.
[ See also: That Facebook 'Dislike' button isn't real, unfortunately ]
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That Facebook invite links to an external site operated by Better-Gifts.net, which in turn is owned by a group called "Worldwide Commerce Associates." (Google them, and you'll find scores of similar sites.) These guys make money by rounding up offers from different affiliate marketing programs and selling your information to telemarketers.
"We may sell, brand or share your personal information that you supply to us with other 3rd party businesses so they can bring selected retail opportunities via direct mail, e-mail, SMS text messaging, telemarketing, pre-recorded messages, or automated attendant telemarketing."
Nice. I gave them one of my spam honeypot email addresses and the phone number for the Bad Breath Notification Hotline. I'm sure they're probably hawking a cure for halitosis, too.
Just filling out the form earns you the opportunity to receive calls from people selling magazines, debt reduction services, dubious health cures, low-rent insurance, and high interest loans.
But that's just the beginning. To qualify for that "free" iPad, you've got to fill out 13 separate trial offers that teach you how to get rid of cellulite the Brazilian way, enhance your relationship with God via Bible study software, get whiter teeth in five hours, speak a new language (7 days), lose 12 pounds (30 days), take control of your acne, buy TVs for less than $20, obtain free government grants, and have two burly guys in wifebeaters show up at your door and tattoo the word "sucker" on your forehead.
OK, I made the last one up. But you get the picture. These guys are the bottom feeders of affiliate-driven Internet marketers, close cousins to spammers hawking porn and fake erection pills.
For example: Sign up for that "Brazilian" cellulite cure (which is a tube of liquid soap, by the way) and it will cost you just $6 for shipping and handling. Fail to cancel after 30 days, though, and you're on the hook for $89.95 every 60 days until you cancel.
Every time you sign up for one of these offers these slimeballs get paid. You, on the other hand, will find yourself having to cancel every "free" offer before they start automatically charging your card after the trial period expires.
This is an old scam that's been running for at least a decade, though the bribe offer has changed. I don't know if Better-Gifts sent that fake Facebook invite directly, or if it uses a network of ethics-challenged affiliate marketers. Either way, it's an invitation you'd do well to steer well clear of.