The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “clickbait” as: Something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a link, especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.
Below are just a few such headlines I found on Facebook when researching for this article.
• 25 Pictures That Will Make You Completely Re-evaluate Your Existence
• 32 Kids Test Answers Too Brilliant To Be Wrong
• New Rule In Lima, Ohio
• Win A Free iPad
• What Does The Size Of Your Pinky Say About Your Personality?
Clicking on Clickbait headlines is sort of the equivalent to the irresistible urge of reading the tabloid headlines at the grocery store. You just can’t help yourself!
Whether it’s a newspaper story or ad, a YouTube video or a sponsored Facebook or Instagram post, the primary purpose of a headline is to get you to read the articles and ads, or, in the case of Clickbait, click on a link to emotionally fill the gap between what you know and what you want to know.
As much as we are told it has, the Internet really hasn’t changed everything. Scammers still want your money and are always finding new ways to rip off consumers. Clickbait is just another tool in their arsenal. They use tantalizing or shocking messages as “emotional bait” on Facebook and Instagram posts to reel in victims.
Ironically, even if headlines fail to deliver, research shows people become even more curious. The fool-me-once logic should mean that Clickbait effectiveness should go down as exposure goes up. After all, how many cheap emotional tricks, false stories and bogus quizzes can people tolerate? Quite a bit, actually. Data shows so long as there’s an occasional emotional payout, we humans are quite willing to put up with huge amounts of disappointment and frustration.
And scammers know Clickbait delivers these payouts. Often, when clicking on these links, you’ll get an official-looking alert stating you need to update your video player or something similar. Other times you may be directed to a page that installs malware designed to scan your computer, harvesting personal information, passwords, user names and other data that can lead to theft of your identity. Facebook has seen an increasing amount of cheaply manufactured, counterfeit goods being advertised and sold as well. Do you really think that $11.99 dress being sold is really a deal? It probably isn’t.
So how do you protect yourself from these Clickbait scams? Here are some tips:
• Avoid clicking on things that would normally cost you money such as IQ tests and credit scores. This type of Clickbait is likely to scam you, installing software on your computer.
• Avoid promotions of “exclusive,” “shocking” or “sensational” footage which seems too improbable to be true; it’s most likely a scam.
• Before you click, hover over a link to see where it will take you. Don’t click on links to unfamiliar websites.
• Beware of “friends” liking or sharing links. Your actual friend’s account may have been hijacked and hacked by scammers and could be using another tactic called “clickjacking.” Clickjacking is a technique scammers use to trick you into clicking on links you would not usually click on.
• Report suspicious ads or posts to Facebook or Twitter if you feel like you’ve been scammed.
As much as you may want to “Win A Free iPad” or know “What Your Pinky Says About Your Personality,” resist the urge to click. Being scammed may “Make You Completely Re-evaluate Your Existence.”
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.