If it sounds too good to be true…

I’m sure you’ve heard it before – “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.” I wasn’t able to verify the originator of the phrase with a quick Google search. I remember it from watching consumer advocate David Horowitz appear on The Tonight Show w/Johnny Carson when I was a kid. It stuck with me.

There are a lot of unscrupulous people on the Internet that are betting a fair number of folks never saw the Tonight Show, don’t know who Johnny Carson is (let alone David Horowitz) and have not heard that old adage. They fill Facebook newsfeeds with offers to reward anyone who likes, or shares a post with everything from free tickets to millions of dollars. In the past few months alone there was a wide-spread scam that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was going to give away millions to random people who liked and shared a post.

Most recently, the alleged benefactor has been Walt Disney himself, promising to give away hundreds of free vacations to the Happiest Place on Earth. Alas, Disney did not become the behemoth it is today, by giving away much of anything, let alone for simply clicking a, er um, mouse (no pun intended). Let’s take a closer look and maybe we can discover ways to pick out one of these “sounds too good” deals before we risk our personal information.

Here’s the post:

WD-FB-SCAMIt’s an attention grabber for sure. Who wouldn’t want a chance for a “all paid Walt Disney World Vacation. exclusive items and $2759 in cash”? All you have to do is Share and Like (and comment)…oh and eventually be taken to a web page where they’ll get some personal information so they can contact you (and sell your information, possibly plant some malware on your computer to spy on you, and other nefarious things).

The problem is, this isn’t really from Walt Disney World. From this post it is difficult to tell I’ll admit. In a moment we’ll look at some more obvious clues.

From this page all we have to go on is the adage we started with…if it sounds too good to be true – which this admittedly does.

But there’s something else, a little more subtle, but nonetheless present. Notice the spelling of the page “Walt DisneyWorld.” No space between “Disney” and “World” and a “.” in the name. Another version of this scam a few weeks ago, showed similar boxes stacked on a pallet (“ready to be distributed”). It was from a FB page named “Walt Disney-World“. Those minor changes (no space, period or hyphen) allowed the creators to get past the FB setup wizard without a “page already exists” problem.

Now let’s drill down a little deeper. Below we have a side-by-side comparison of the “Walt Disneyworld.” page and the official page.


Notice the circled differences:

Fake page (on left or top)

The page type is “Transport/Freight“. Sounds happy and fun right? And a whopping 7053 people have liked this page. Somehow I’d have expected more.

Now the official page (on the right or bottom)

Notice the page type and the number of likes and visitors. Now that’s more like it. Another more subtle difference, notice the blue checkmark next to the page title. This indicates that Facebook has verified this to be an authentic page owned and operated by Walt Disney World. These “verified” accounts are showing up in other forms of social media – Twitter, Instagram, etc. While this CAN be faked, it is difficult, and usually doesn’t get past them for long. These pages tend to be reported as scams, and get taken down. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen before thousands of people fall for the scam, often giving up their personal information, email addresses, logins and passwords.

While it is unfortunate, and seems really pessimistic, it is becoming more important all the time to learn to “TRUST NO ONE” at least as far as the Internet is concerned. Online thieves are getting better all the time finding ways to get users to give up their personal information, willingly. This is called “social engineering” and it is in my mind THE most dangerous form of hacking. It targets good, trusting people simply looking for a good deal, or a chance to take their kids on a dream vacation. In this economy, in this world, who can blame them. I almost feel guilty saying it again, but unfortunately it’s true. With few exceptions (God’s grace for example) – IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE – IT PROBABLY IS. Learn it – remember it – when dealing online.

Jimmy Fallon is great, but I really miss The Tonight Show w/Johnny Carson, and a much simpler time.

Till next time.