Comment 8: What’s the worst that could happen?
Scams have become more common in the computer age. We are continually defending ourselves from them every time our phone rings, a text message arrives, or we open an email. It’s important to be aware that scams can arrive on our digital doorsteps in ways that we may not consider, and in ways that we don’t understand. This month’s blog will look at the mechanics of a recent phenomenon on social media which I’m calling the “Appreciated Hands Scam”.
Here are some examples that I captured in the wilds of Facebook:
Look at the images. Do you notice anything about them? Is there anything that seems off? Are you curious why a page named Cat Planet has sculptures of a dog and an eagle? Let’s examine what we are looking at and what is going on.
With a grain of salt
The thing that all these images have in common is that they were clearly generated using AI.
It is worth noting that these images hold up to a bit of scrutiny and look impressive on my phone’s screen; however, these picture likely felt “off” to you from the first time you looked at them. In much the same way that we’ve all adopted better media literacy skills over the last few decades, we need to expand that scrutiny even more to things such as pictures.
By zooming into the pictures it is easier to see where the generative process fell apart.
- The sand sculpture has human eyes.
- The face and ears of the dog sculpture are a real dog.
- The man in the white shirt appears to have six fingers.
- The man in the hat appears to have one.
What’s the scam
I have a pretty good idea what is occurring, but the “why” of it could go into two related, but different directions.
These accounts are harvesting engagement. When a post is engaged with in any way, the more likely that post’s author will have their content picked up by the algorithm. In other words, accounts with a lot of engagement are more likely to be seen by people on a platform. Engagement includes likes, comments, shares, and clicks. Even if you go comment on how fake the images are, that is still an engagement. It’s very much a case of “no such thing as bad publicity”.
So the scam is for the author to create powerful accounts on the platform by engagement farming, but to what benefit?
That’s where I’m a little less certain. It’s my guess that the accounts are being set up for sale to another party and there are two candidates that come to mind: The account will be sold to a marketing firm or to scammers. In either case, the account will be renamed and sanitized. At the same time, the engagement can be used to develop profiles or identify targets for future campaigns.
So while this type of scam is not as dangerous to you as getting phished or clicking on a poison link, it could be. Your engagement now could lead to you being targeted by duplicitous marketers or outright scammers later.