This story was first published on May 1, 2015
If you tend to be the hoax and scam debunker among your social media friends, chances are you’ve come across the rather lame ‘just in case’ justification more than once.
You know the scenario. You warn friends that a circulating post that claims that they can win a luxury car just by liking and sharing is a scam. But, they like and share anyway and tell you, ‘I thought it was probably a scam, but I thought I’d try just in case.’
You politely point out to one of your online friends that Facebook will NOT donate money to help a sick child each time the child’s picture is shared. Your friend counters with the tired old argument, ‘Well, I shared it just in case’.
At first blush, the ‘just in case’ argument might even seem reasonable. After all, it could be argued, what harm can it do?
But, it is not at all reasonable and it certainly can cause harm.
Of course, due to gaps in their knowledge or a lack of Internet experience, many people may fall for one of these scams or hoaxes the first time they see them. That’s understandable. But often, even after a more knowledgeable friend has set them right about such scams, some users continue to share them just in case.
If a friend does use the ‘just in case’ justification, you could perhaps counter with the following points:
If they like and share a scam post ‘just in case’ it’s legitimate, they are not only putting themselves at risk. They are also exposing their online friends to the scam as well. The friends they share the post with most likely trust and respect them. So, if they share a scam message, at least a few of the friends may trust their judgement and happily click away. By doing so, these friends may divulge personal information via dodgy survey websites, install rogue apps or browser plugins, or download malware.
And, of course, before they do any of that, the friends will most likely share the same scam message with THEIR friends as well! Thus, the ‘just in case’ proponents are jeopardising the security and privacy of their friends and helping to promote the scams far and wide.
They are also aiding and abetting the criminals who create the scams in the first place. They help these criminals earn money, infect computers with malware, and steal personal information.
If they share a sick child hoax, just in case it might help, they are actually helping the disgraceful person who created the hoax accumulate page likes or website visitors.
And, by sharing a stolen picture of a sick child they are adding to the pain of the child’s family and violating their privacy.
So, as an excuse, ‘just in case’ simply does not work.