How to Make Money Off Gullible Fools

I’ve just been checking my Facebook activity feed and noticed a friend who’d “Like”ed a page called “This Formspring Question led to the SUICIDE of a 15-year-old girl”. It’s one of those annoying “click Like to see the content!” pages, which makes use of CSS to hide the content (pro-tip: the web developer toolbar for Firefox has an option to disable styles; scroll down to see the content).

The page hides a link to an external page with the supposed formspring question on it. Now, ignoring the stupidity of clicking links to websites you don’t trust, within seconds of the page loading I was redirected to an ‘Adscend Media’ page telling me I *must* enable JavaScript to see the content, X browsers support it, etc etc. Odd, I don’t remember clicking an Adscend Media page, I wanted to see this so-called cyberbullying! So, back-up a second, reload the content, view-source before the refresh kicks in (web dev toolbar also disables those, btw) and lo and behold… amongst the hideous bloated mark-up that can only be generated by a Microsoft Office product, is a JavaScript reference to Adscend Media. An external JavaScript file which loads an ad-ridden affiliate iframe onto the page.

When you click “Like” to “bring exposure to cyberbullying”, you’re promoting a page that is making money through the stupidity of Facebook users who don’t know any better than to click links to 3rd party pages. The fact that this page, and others like it, only have dodgy adverts is a small mercy… think about what you could be loading on to your computer by opening pages you don’t know and can’t trust. Nice, eh?

affiliate window advert

16 comments so far

  1. Rhys said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I had a blog post half written about this. May publish it soon, but atm it doesn’t work.

    I created this – http://www.facebook.com/pages/When-I-Read-What-Is-REALLY-Happening-Here-I-was-shocked/398174883274 -, which when you clicked "Become a Fan" (I suspect that why it has become "like", as I was naughty and hotlinked the ‘Become a fan’ button, hence why it no longer works now), but clicking it would lead to this page – http://rhyswynne.co.uk/facebookspam/. Worked on the same principle as what you suffered, but nowhere near as bad.

    It sucks, and the worst thing is, a HUGE number of my friends do it. Often think SEO/Web Geeks get a bad rep, it’s cocks who take advantage of stupidity that give us a bad name.

  2. Zaphiie said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Whoah. I feel a little sorry for the idiots that clicked this. My friend was trying to download a movie online the other day, and a dialog box that said "Do you want to download an extra plugin to enhance your movie features?" She clicked yes, and ended up with a very bad trojan virus that is stopping her from using her computer. Her response was "It asked me so I said okay!"

    Also, why would you need to enable JavaScript to see what was apparently a formspring page? How thick do people get?

  3. Jem said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 9:08 am

    @Zaphiie: well there’s the thing, most people have JavaScript enabled by default so wouldn’t see any redirects/etc, which is why it’s so sneaky and works so well. It’s only because I run NoScript that I noticed.

  4. Carly said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 9:24 am

    People just assume that because Facebook have ‘allowed’ this page to created, and trillions of people are fans, it must be legit. I can’t believe how stupid people are and really Facebook ought to send out an email or warning message about it.

    The worst ones are the groups about ‘charging £3.99 a month for Facebook.’ When people join those it pisses me off. I like to point out to them that they’re joining a spam page.

  5. Rhys said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 9:43 am

    @Carly – had a friend join that this morning? I have :(

  6. Amelie said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Hear hear. 99.9% of those BECOME A FAN TO SEE THE HIDDEN CONTENT!!!!11 pages are just gateways for ads and spam. I investigated one the other day with a title of something like "50 AMAZING facts!!! OMG THESE ARE SO AMAZING YOU MUST LOOK!" – on turning off the CSS and armed with my trusty adblock and noscript, all it did was tell me to invite a bazillion friends and then link me to a blogger site which (amongst other things – it did list a modest list of ‘facts’) contained a redirect (safely blocked) telling me to enable JS. If I did that (I didn’t, I just followed the code), I had another JS redirect telling me to turn off adblock because this site relies on ads. If I did *that*, I got redirected to some spammy ad site.

    What a load of rubbish. I report those kind of pages to Facebook.

  7. Peter Green said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Nice post!
    The complexity of web pages is amazing these days.
    I remember the first pages I made in plain old html were light years away from the all singing and dancing beasts that they are now.
    Yes people are stupid, but they are also up against technology that moves at such an amazing pace, it’s hard for us all to keep up unless it’s our business. (I’m not saying I know that much about the coding of said pages!)
    To me using Facebook is a no brainer, though I fear I will upset many people saying that! Such sites, to me are a purpose made paradise for spammers and other devious script writers.
    Definitely use and promote browsers and plugins that help keep (Windoze) users safer; Firefox, Adblock, No Script, Ghostery etc.

  8. Cristina said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    *likes this* ;)

  9. Caity said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    I always report those pages to Facebook too. That is absolutely ridiculous and it just makes me sick that people use other people’s curiosity and stupidity (though I try to tell myself it’s just lack of knowledge) against them.

  10. Ang said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Ick, ick, ick.

  11. Amelie said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Oh look, another one all my friends have been joining "Learn the REAL reason Facebook was down on 4/23/2010!!!!!!!!!" which leads you to a site with the 3 step ad thing (have JS enabled; turn off adblock; have a million ads on a referral link). All it then does is embed a year-old youtube video talking about hackers attacking Twitter and Facebook. 9_9 I really can’t believe people are this stupid!

  12. Jordan said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Did you report the page to Facebook? I stumbled across a similar one not too long ago when I was looking at my sister’s recent history (although I was lazy and didn’t dig too far into it as you did.) Thank god she was on my laptop is pretty locked down to prevent adware and the like. Told her that if she has to click a link to see/read something, to stay far away from it.

    Had she of done that on my parents dinosaur using XP, I’d probably chuck the thing out of the window from sheer annoyance. :)

  13. Mimi said:
    On April 25, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I knew they were making money but I sometimes get my hopes up. FREE BLACK STALLION, PLEAASEEEE! Hahaha

  14. Jessa said:
    On April 26, 2010 at 12:22 am

    That stuff seriously annoys the hell out of me.

  15. Shannon said:
    On April 26, 2010 at 6:44 am

    They make a lot of money off my friends.

  16. Rise said:
    On April 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Apparently a LOT of people are gullible fools! I’ve seen a lot of these pages, with a lot of fans!

    I’m crap at Facebook so joined one to "see" the content. It didn’t show up right away, so I made damn sure I unfanned it before never bothing with that sorta stuff again. :D