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Scammers Bank on Free Flights Before the Holidays


Matthew, one of our researchers at the AV Labs, flagged us regarding a Facebook scam he spotted late last weekend. And his timing could not have been more impeccable. The scam is about Southwest Airlines giving away free tickets. Now, as a practical rule of thumb, if something free is given by (a) a non-friend, (b) a non-relative, and (c) a random someone / bot who / that found their way on your social networking feed, you better start thinking twice before clicking that link to accept the freebie. If they’re from people you actually know? Double the amount of thinking.

Trust me.

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What made this particular scam interesting is that the scammers had used and abused a Facebook token generator to spread it. A token is basically an electronic key that is used to access something one does not readily have access to. In this case, a token is used to gain rights to post on Facebook walls.

Once users click the link of the scam post, they are directed to www(dot)southwestisbest(dot)com where an entry box pops up, asking users to “access the offer” by entering a validation code. You can’t go around this one, since there is no option to somehow allow a user to decline to do this action.

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“Click Here to Generate Your Validation Code” – and a small browser window, with the URL m(dot)facebook(dot)com/ajax/dtsg(dot)php, shows to display the code.

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Hitting the Submit button enables the app to post on the user’s Facebook wall. “But wait!” It doesn’t end there though. Users, clearly unbeknownst to the posting done on their walls, are then redirected to a page asking for their email addresses. After this, they will be asked to complete a survey.

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Our experts had already reported this to Facebook and the sites had been taken down shortly after, in turn also terminating the issuance of tokens.

There are other Southwest Airline scams that have been making rounds on Facebook. One such scam was found by our friends at Sophos (Do check out that post, too). So far, however, this is the only one we’ve seen that uses tokens.

As the Christmas season draws near, criminals are taking advantage of consumers wanting to grab the cheapest flights towards their destinations. And they have been for the longest time we can all remember. Be prudent and smart when it comes to gimmicks you see online, never click on links that offer things that sound too good to be true, and never give away any information until you know what these companies are going to do with them.

Jovi Umawing (Thanks to Matthew for spotting this)

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