Tuesday, January 18, 2011
ONLINE SURVEYS - BEWARE!
You decide you want to visit www.facebook.com but you make a typographical error - one too many o's or one two few. Facebok, Facebook, Facebooj, as well as a host of other typos, will steer you off to websites that are, well, dangerous.
Suddenly, you are on a page that sort of "looks" like Facebook, but isn't. A voice comes over your computer speakers, "Congratulations! You have been chosen to take an online survey!"
What exactly is going on? Well, as Idella says, "It ain't gonna be good, I'll tell you that!"
The first problem occurs when you try to exit the page. A pop-up appears saying "are you sure you want to exit?" and you are alarmed to discover that Firefox or Explorer won't close or let you navigate away from the page!
If you click on the "OK" link to "CLOSE" yet another pop-up shows up, telling you about some other great offer.
Are these surveys and offers a con-job? Well, what do you think? As I noted before in this blog, when you get involved in any business transaction predicated on a lie - even a small lie - the relationship will go quickly downhill from there.
And here, the lie is that you are on some sort of facebook type site when in fact you aren't. And the intentionally copy the look and feel of facebook to lure you in. It isn't going to be pretty.
What are these look-alike sites after? Your money, basically. There are a number of scams that aggregation and typos websites try. The most benign of them are just trying to collect clicks as part of a pay-per-click ad campaign. The most evil try to steal your passwords.
Some of these "Survey" sites, for example, will ask you an increasing number of personal questions, interspersed with innocuous questions, getting you to hand over your username, name, address, social security number, passwords, phone number or cell phone number.
In some cases, all they need is your name and cell phone number, which sounds pretty harmless. But when you "click here to accept!" your entry into a contest or whatever, you have signed up for a $9.99 a month bogus "service" that will be tacked on to your cell phone bill, and be damn near impossible to remove.
Why, as a society, do we allow this? Well, it is, after all, free enterprise, right? Think about that the next time someone says that all businesses should be unfettered and that the free market is the best thing since sliced bread.
Facebook is partially to blame for not being more proactive in policing these sorts of sites. Under the law, they can go after the mis-spelled facebook sites and snag their domain names, under the domain name anti-squatter act. And while some news stories claim that facebook has already done this, the fake sites still exist, and what's more, there are plenty more mis-spellings that facebook has yet to go after.
Worse yet, there are reports of hacking attempts whereby someone's registry is altered, so that even if you type in the correct URL for facebook, it will re-direct you to a rogue site.
How do you protect yourself from such sites? The first and best way is to bookmark pages you go to often and use those bookmarks. It is tempting to type in page names you use often, but if you make a typo, you may be hauled off to some Siberian website that loads a trojan into your computer, or worse.
The second thing is to avoid these sort of online surveys if they are proffered. No, you can't get something-for-nothing and no one is going to give you an iPad for $4 if you complete an online survey. So just stop believing in such garbage. Recent Facebook Clickjacking Attacks used a similar strategy of "online surveys" to get people to hand over cell phone numbers or credit card numbers on the premise that you can "see a shocking video" or "see who is looking for you online!" Just stop believing in Santa Claus and it will save you a lot of grief.
If you do find yourself on such a website, hit CTRL-ALT-DEL to start Windows TASK MANAGER and then CLOSE from Explorer or Firefox, etc. As I noted previously, using the traditional closing window techniques are somehow bypassed by these rogue sites, which instead pop-up more pleas for you to stay online and take a survey or get great bargains or win a contest. No matter how many times you click "no thanks" they just keep coming - and one of those clicks could be loading a trojan into your computer.
Facebook should be more proactive in protecting its domain from look-alikes and knockoffs. And oddly enough, some people actually defend criminal enterprises who piggyback off of popular domain names, as they harbor lingering resentment against Facebook - for being so popular, I guess. But crooks are crooks, and no, no one has the "right" to squat on a domain name or a trademark sound-alike.