Yesterday Paul Brent from the local CTV affiliate dropped by my office to tape an interview with me about identity theft, privacy and online safety. My view is that these are really two subjects — one is managing your own image online (don’t put drunken pictures of yourself online if you’re worried a future employer might find them), and the other is maintaining a certain amount of skepticism about pages you visit and emails you respond to so that you don’t get taken by an online fishing scam of some kind. Credulity is the weapon that online thieves and vandals exploit most often to perpetuate their scams.
This morning I received my first Facebook chain letter. It reads:
Facebook recently became very crowded, there were many members complaining that Facebook become very slow. The report shows that the reason is that there are too many members Facebook non-active And on the other side too many new members Facebook.
We will send these messages around to see if members are active or not, if you are active please send to 15 other users using Copy + Paste to show that you are active Those who do not send this message in 2 weeks The user will be deleted without hesitation to create more space, if Facebook is always crowded with goodness we ask for donations, but until then send this message to all your friends and we assure you send this message to show me that your active and unsuppressed.
Creator of Facebook
Your first clue that this is a scam? The vandal who created this mail got the name of Facebook’s founder wrong. Your second clue? Facebook already tracks how active you are through the news feed, the chat room, your online presence and so on. Your third clue? Accounts that are inactive aren’t using “space”. They’re not generating new content.
The only group being exploited by this chain letter is Facebook. Presumably the vandal is theorizing that if he or she can convince enough credulous Facebook users to send this mail to 20 of their friends, and so on and so on, then they might be able to bring Facebook’s mail servers down. If 20 people send this mail to 20 of their friends, and the cycle repeats just 10 times, that’s over 10 trillion email messages.
Personally, I am not looking forward to the inevitable wave of email this is going to generate, both in my Facebook inbox, and outside of it.
Remember to think kiddies. Your best defence online is your own brain.
Related: Ars Technica publishes a study on how users are scammed by fake dialog boxes.