This week we reported on an email offering £70 to do a survey that looked like it was sent by Facebook. The social media giant said it was a scam.
That reply came when This is Money contacted Facebook. We were told that it was a scam and as such, to report it to its scam centre.
But then a day later something strange happened: Facebook got back in touch with a U-turn – the email was genuine after all.
Not a scam: We incorrectly said an email sent by Facebook the other day was a scam – after being told it was by the social media website
That’s a pretty embarrassing state of affairs for Facebook – and it’s disappointing for This is Money because it means that we reported something we had told was true, only to discover that wasn’t the case.
So, how did this all happen and what does it say about how difficult everyday people find it to tell scammers and genuine messages apart?
The email in question, asking me to take part in a survey, was sent to me on my personal Hotmail address.
I then forwarded it on to Facebook because I was unsure whether it was genuine or not and I wanted its press office to investigate. After all, chances were that if I had got this then so would many other people.
However, another part of me treated it with caution. I treat all unsolicited emails sent to me in the same manner, especially those offering £70 for doing a survey.
Clicking on links in emails can be a recipe for disaster, including the ‘unsubscribe’ part at the bottom.
Hovering the cursor over the ‘click here’ link on the email showed a URL that I didn’t like the look of – and I wasn’t willing to click it to find out.
The email in question – and the link that comes up when you hover over ‘click here’
Fraudsters use hyperlinks in email contact to install malware or siphon personal information – or both.
Criminal gangs use malware to compromise customers’ security and personal details. Malware has been most prominent on PCs and laptops, but criminals now also target smartphones.
For that reason, I wanted confirmation from Facebook as to whether it was genuine or not. Not a difficult request.
I was told that it was a scam – and so we ran the story to warn people, with a headline asking: is this one of the most convincing scams yet?
A day later, the same spokesman got back to me and said that actually, this is a genuine email – a complete U-turn on what was said previously.
I have been reporting on fraud and scams for a number of years, and in cases like these, it is important to highlight to our readers the latest scams doing the rounds.
We set up our beat the scammers section of the website in 2016.
It turns out that I really had been selected to undertake a survey and that Angelica Agbukor is a genuine employee. I could potentially turn up later in July, take the survey and receive a £70 Amazon voucher.
This once again highlights quite how difficult it is to spot genuine or fake emails and messages – even for the press office of a huge global firm like Facebook.
For anyone wanting to check with firms whether email correspondence or not is real, it is potentially a hard task. You might be fobbed off with the incorrect information.
Two years ago, I wrote a column with the headline: spotting fake e-mails in your inbox can be a minefield.
It appears that not much has changed.