Is Facebook Causing My Spam?

Q: I’m new to Facebook and am really enjoying the ability to stay connected to so many people, but I seem to be getting a bunch of spam e-mail because I am on Facebook. What gives? – Marianna

A: Simply engaging with others on Facebook shouldn’t be the cause of an increase in spam to your regular e-mail account. Even if you are actively engaging in the installation of ‘applications’ many of which will warn you that they will gain access to your profile information, your regular e-mail spam should not increase.

It’s most likely that your increase in spam is either coincidental or are some of the many Facebook hoax messages that are gaining in popularity.

There are the cutesy applications that allow you throw pillows, pass a drink, toss a piece of flair or any of a thousand mainly useless applications which are all designed to get you to allow the author access to your profile info as well as the profile of the person that you are sending the items to.

The more of this type of activity that you engage in, the more likely that you will be exposed to offers, etc.; generally not to your primary e-mail address but to your Facebook account inbox or chat box.

Most of the folks that write these “free” applications for Facebook aren’t doing it because they just wanted to have fun; they want to leverage all of the information contained in Facebook profiles as a collective database mainly for advertising reasons.

The first thing you can do to track whether spam is as a result of anything you are doing on Facebook is to change the e-mail address you have in your profile from your primary account to a “free-mail” account on Google (gmail.com) or Yahoo (mail.yahoo.com).

The next thing you can do is change the e-mail notification settings in your Facebook profile as there are over 50 different items that can generate an e-mail notification to you.

To do this, click on the ‘Settings’ link (in the upper right section of the Facebook page), then on the Notifications tab of the My Account screen. Turn off the notification for any of the items you feel are unnecessary alerts from Facebook.

The next thing you can do is curtail your desire to use the cutesy applications that you send to others as it potentially exposes you and the recipient to the same profile exposure as a result of how these applications work.

If you receive nonsensical invitations that require that you “Allow” access to your profile information, think long and hard before you click on the Allow button. If you want to play it safe, get in the habit of clicking on the ‘Ignore’ option when these invitations come in, so that you limit the exposure of your profile information to just your friends.

Last year, a Facebook ‘worm’ was circulating that did send out malicious e-mail messages, but it got shut down fairly quickly. This type of exploit will no doubt be on the increase as the popularity of Facebook increases.

Another current e-mail scam message is circulating that poses as a salacious video posted on Facebook. It’s been coming from ‘Facebook Advertising’ or ‘Facebook Promote’ but has nothing to do with Facebook. Anyone that clicks on the link in the e-mail will be sent to a page that kind of resembles Facebook with a suggestive looking video in the middle.

If you click on the video, it will tell you that you need a new version of Adobe’s Flash Player in order to see the video, but it’s actually a malicious program that will infect your computer.

As with anything on the Internet that gains this many users, the exploitation of tools by those with malicious intent will continue to grow, so be vigilant and keep your guard up!

Ken Colburn
Data Doctors Computer Services
Data Doctors Data Recovery Labs
Data Doctors Franchise Systems, Inc.
Weekly video tech contributor to CNN.com
Host of the award-winning “Computer Corner” radio show

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