IN THE age of social media it’s the last notification a business owner wants to see on their screen.
A slew of businesses in Bundaberg have received a worrying message on Facebook and have spoken out to warn others it is not what it seems.
“A notification came up saying our Cool Bananas page had been reported for offensive activity,” Cool Bananas cafe co-owner Geoff Liddell said.
“If people were saying negative things about us, I thought, being new, we need to cover that off straight away,” Sharlene said.
“It gave us a link and said if you don’t want your page shut down in the next 12 hours, go here – and there it asked for your username, password and date of birth.”
That’s when the alarm bells began ringing.
“I thought, that can’t be right – that doesn’t feel right.”
Stranger still, the page named other “offending” local businesses.
“When we went back and looked, it showed about six different businesses, including Petro’s Chicken and Carvery and the Rock Bar and Grill,” she said.
The instigator was a Facebook page called “Ads Department”.
“It had all of the blue Facebook (design) on it which made it seem really legit. It looked very real,” Sharlene said.
Luckily they read the warning signs – which also included some dodgy spelling and grammar – and did not do as the page instructed.
“Our Facebook page is fine, for now.”
Petro’s owners confirmed they too had been hit by the scam.
Bundaberg’s own online scam expert Brett Christensen, who runs the website Hoax Slayer, said the trap, known as a phishing scam, was “just one in a long line of very similar scam messages”.
“It’s been happening since at least 2013. It’s not only Facebook pages or businesses, it can be done with personal pages too,” Mr Christensen said.
“You’ll get an email or a Facebook message saying your account has been disabled because you’ve offended someone, or broken the terms of service.
“If you get caught, the scammers have your Facebook username and password, so they can log in as you, change your name and profile and send more of those scam messages to your followers.
“They can lock you out of your own account – and getting any help from Facebook is pretty difficult.”
He said the scammers, who often operated from overseas, may have used an automated system which picked up businesses in the same area or who follow each other.
“It’s tough especially for a business, because they’ve hijacked one of your most important channels with your customers.”
Phishing scams often target credit card numbers, email account passwords and other identifying information too.
Alarm bells should ring at any request for these details, as well as poor spelling and grammar, Mr Christensen said.
“The nature of social media is it’s very immediate; people can click on something and participate without thinking.
“If you receive one of these messages, do not click on any links that it contains.”