Does Facebook require users to verify their age before viewing a graphic video hosted on another website? No, that's not true: Compromised accounts have been posting fabricated stories into Facebook groups. These stories, such as "suspect at large who killed our beloved uncle with a machete" or "Christmas Holiday in the Park carnival ride collapse that killed 4 and injured several" are not true. The link to a graphic video of the purported tragedy is a ruse to hack Facebook accounts by tricking curious people to enter their password on a malicious website.
For years hackers have used a variety of tricks to entice people to give up their passwords. This is called phishing. One example of a phishing attack currently circulating was posted in a public Facebook group on February 21, 2022. The post was written as if by a distressed family member:
ALERT: (Please see video) $75,000 is going to be offered to identify a suspect at large that killed our beloved uncle yesterday as he was trying to buy a ps5 at the marketplace for his kid yesterday at one of our local gas stations. CCTV footage captures the suspect selling him a fake ps5 as they get into a brief fight that my uncle ultimately knocked the suspect out in, the suspect is seen getting his machete and attacking my uncle as he tried to retrieve his belongings. We are trying to gather info to lead to the arrest of this individual and are offering a cash reward to bring this person to justice. If you recognize this individual please call 1-888-STOP immediately. (1:45 minutes Video - https://cnnnewscctvfootage55.wixsite.com/my-site/?aa8
This is how the post made by a compromised account appeared at the time of writing:
(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Feb 22 00:24:53 2022 UTC UTC)
The Facebook Help Center has a page about phishing with tips on how to avoid it and what to do if you think you have been phished. It is described this way:
Phishing is when someone tries to get access to your Facebook account by sending you a suspicious message or link that asks for your personal information. If they get into your account, they may use your account to send spam.
Example: Joey gets an email saying he needs to log into his Facebook account and read an important message about his account. The email links to a strange looking website asking him to enter his username and password.
Lead Stories found another example of this phishing ruse that began circulating in December 2021 as a Christmas-themed tragedy. It was still spreading on February 16, 2022. In both examples the post includes a timestamp suggesting the key moment to see in the video. This one is written as if it is a Fox 4 News Alert. The caption says:
Fox 4 News Alert - Several injured with 5 total deaths reported at a Holiday Christmas there park as one of the carnival rides break down at its peak, roughly 40 ft In the air sending its passengers to the ground in an unfortunate event. The new ride technology air bags deployed saving majority of the passengers, but found 5 dead on impact as the safety system did not deploy. Phone footage has been leaked online here (3:27 minutes -https://foxnews081.wixsite.com/her1/?aa2
(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Feb 21 20:03:31 2022 UTC)
These phishing posts have several similarities although the stories or details used may be different. The posts frequently appear in small local groups where the owner of the compromised account is already a member. Other group members may be caught off guard by the phishing attack because they know and trust the name on the account that made the post. There is usually one comment made that further boosts the post and raises curiosity -- but then the comments are turned off to prevent other group members from warning each other not to click on the link.
The posts link to another website away from Facebook. Typically these are free blogging websites like wixsite.com or blogspot.com. The URL may be constructed to appear like a news website, for example:
Clicking the link will take the viewer to a webpage resembling a paused YouTube video with this message:
Warning: The content you are about to view may contain disturbing footage.
Facebook may ask you to verify you are 18 or over to proceed.
(Image source: wixsite.com screenshot taken on Mon Feb 21 20:57:45 2022 UTC)
Like the similar "Is This You?" video scam that has been spreading through Messenger, this fake age verification or login prompt is a trick to get a person to hand over their password. Lead Stories wrote about another phishing scam in the past. This one targeted Facebook Page owners by impersonating Facebook in a fake warning notification that the account was going to be unpublished.
(Editors' Note: Facebook is a client of Lead Stories, which is a third-party fact checker for the social media platform. On our About Us page, you will find the following information:
Since February 2019 we are actively part of Facebook's partnership with third party fact checkers. Under the terms of this partnership we get access to listings of content that has been flagged as potentially false by Facebook's systems or its users and we can decide independently if we want to fact check it or not. In addition to this we can enter our fact checks into a tool provided by Facebook and Facebook then uses our data to help slow down the spread of false information on its platform. Facebook pays us to perform this service for them but they have no say or influence over what we fact check or what our conclusions are, nor do they want to.)