'Clickbait' could pose serious security threat

Posted at 12:34 PM, Feb 02, 2016

When it comes to "clickbait,” the term is new but the strategy is well known and popular.

"They just drag you in with basic psychological techniques that people just fall for naturally and can't help falling for," said Mark Moore, a student at the University of South Florida (USF).

2 Works for You sister station, ABC Action News, is referring to those highly addictive quizzes finding their way onto every Facebook news feed. A few simple clicks could tell you your IQ, your perfect nickname, even what feelings are revealed from your profile picture.

"Then all of a sudden they want all your information, where you work, what you do, how old you are," said Qi Ni, another student at USF.

Or they want you to log in with your Facebook login. But if you make it that far, cyber security experts say, you’re making a big mistake.

"Anything you come across on social media, anything you sent from anyone, any apps, any links, especially those quizzes that ask a person questions that come across can potentially be infected and do a lot of harm," cyber expert Mitch Neff said.

In fact, one IQ test asks for your phone number to send your score, then comes a $10 monthly fee on your phone bill if you provide it.

The scams go after everything from credit card information to dropping in computer viruses.

"That’s why I avoid it," said Claudia Giraldo, who sees them pop up in her feed all the time. "You can always tell which ones they are because they have a lot of flashing adds."

Experts advise you to use commons sense when deciding what to click on. Watch for key phrases and most of all don't take the bait.

"You just need to really be careful. If it’s not something you've heard of, just go ahead and ignore it. That’s really best practice, even if it’s from somebody you know," Neff said.

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to protect yourself from social media scams:

Don't take the bait. Stay away from promotions of "exclusive," "shocking" or "sensational" pictures or video. If it sounds too outlandish to be true, it is probably a scam.

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.

Confirm before you trust your “friends” online. It might not actually be your friends who are "liking" or sharing scam links to photos, quizzes or games. Their account may have been hacked and scammers could be using another tactic called “clickjacking”. Clickjacking is a technique that scammers use to trick you into clicking on social media links that you would not usually click on. 

Report scam posts on Facebook by following these instructions.

Report malware or spam on Twitter by following these instructions.