Two annoying Facebook scams we can help do away with in 2015

The period at the end of a brand name is an easy way to tell a Facebook account is fake. This post, offering a fake giveaway, was deleted this weekend after the page gained more than 46,000 followers. The page - and followers - will in all likelihood be sold to a company or another scammer.

How would you like to win a free Disney vacation for your family, along with some cash to spend?

Or how about a free SUV?

All you have to do is like this Facebook page here, tell us what color SUV you want in the comments and share this post with friends for a chance to win.

Sounds pretty good, huh? Maybe too good to be true? Well, it probably is.

But Andy, you might be saying to me right now, these pages often have upward of 60,000 fans. Can 60,000 people be wrong?

Yes. Frequently.

Here's the deal. Facebook has become a powerful marketing tool for companies and black-hat marketers are taking advantage of this by creating fake Facebook pages offering free stuff that no one will ever get. The fake gifts are so awesome that tens of thousands of people will like and share the page in a day or two.

The scammer will then repurpose the page or sell it to someone else who will.

Maybe, you say, it's worth the risk to like one of these pages. After all, it's just a "Like," right? But many social media experts warn that the scammer could potentially take the data of people who liked the page and collect their personal information for future phishing or malware attacks. Are you willing to take that risk?

So unless you want to be that guy or gal encouraging your dear friends to open themselves to a possible scam, here are four steps you can take before hitting like and share.

Be skeptical. Assume it's fake. But if you're still tempted, take steps to prove to yourself it's real.

Go beyond the post and look at the page itself. Was it newly created? Is there anything funny about the name of the brand? I recently saw two posts in my feed that appeared to be from Disney and Range Rover except they both had periods at the end of the name. Definite red flag.

And it didn't help that when I Googled a description of the vehicle advertised in the giveway it became apparent the photo was stolen from another website, in this case the photo was of an SUV an actor gave to his wife.

Like the verified pages of brands you trust. Companies often do their own legitimate giveaways, though they're often not going to be too good to be true and probably won't promise to notify you through a private message. Be safe by only entering a contest that's on the company's official page.

Still not sure? Google it. Sites like Snopes.com and hoax-slayer.com usually have researched these scams and those like them and can tell you what to avoid.

The other annoying trend on Facebook also has been around for a couple of years but peaked again this weekend: The Facebook privacy notice.

This notice begins by referencing a news article and contains a bunch of legalese that essentially says the user doesn't allow Facebook to use his or her photos or information for commercial purposes.

It became so prevalent Sunday and Monday that my newsfeed went back and forth between friends posting the notice and other friends posting links that the notice is complete bunk.

As Snopes says: "Facebook isn't claiming copyright to the personal information, photographs, and other material that their users are posting to the social network."

In fact, the social network, in its terms and conditions, states that "You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application."

Hoax-slayer calls it "utter nonsense."

"The supposed 'Privacy Notice' has no legal standing of any kind and posting it on Facebook will do nothing whatsoever to protect the privacy of users," Hoax-Slayer's site says. "Reposting this message will do nothing other than spread misinformation and clutter Facebook with even more pointless garbage."

So there you have it. Neither has any merit. Maybe if we all learn to ignore these types of things they will disappear from our newsfeeds altogether.

Reach Andy Paras at 937-5589 or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.