Facebook is still dealing with blowback from the revelations that Russian operatives sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election with fake Facebook posts and advertising. However, according to a new report from ProPublica, political Facebook ads are also being used for a far more mundane purpose: scamming users and infecting them with malware.
There has been a strong surge in interest in politics since last fall’s election, and according to experts, that makes political Facebook content ripe for scams.
“Those political ads, especially right now if you look at the U.S., they are actually getting more clicks,” said Jérôme Segura, a malware analyst at security company Malwarebytes. “Where there are clicks, there is going to be interest from bad guys.”
These kinds of ads lure in users with a provocative headline, then, once they click on it, readers are hit with a malware warning or fake offer. In one example cited by the ProPublica report, victims who clicked on a fake political ad received a warning saying their credit card information and personal data had been stolen. The warning message also provided a phone number that users could call, and if they did, they would be asked to pay to restore account access.
Of course, this is just one example, and there are many forms these scams can take. However, the end goal is almost always getting users’ credit card information. So if you’re ever asked to pay for something after clicking through a suspicious-looking link, or if you suddenly start receiving fishy pop-up warnings, don’t fall for it — it’s most likely malware.