Cybercriminals have been taking advantage of Facebook’s popularity ever since it became huge. Phishing scams, malicious spam, survey scams, profile hijackers – Facebook is one of cybercrime’s biggest and juiciest targets, and they’ve used it for every kind of lure imaginable. As such, you may have been suspicious if you got a legal notice in your email titled “Re: LEGAL NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION.” It reads very much like a 419 scam, doesn’t it?
Strangely enough, this message is actually not a scam. It is, in fact, a legitimate federal notice related to a recently-settled lawsuit against Facebook. Even if you’ve already read the entire thing, chances are you’re still a bit confused about it, and still a bit suspicious. So, to spare you the legalese and help you get informed as quickly and clearly as possible, we’ve condensed this entire matter into a brief Q&A format:
What is this legal notice all about?
It’s about the “Fraley vs. Facebook” lawsuit, which stems from Facebook’s “Sponsored Story” ads that feature users and the products they’ve recently “Liked.” The plaintiffs sued because they felt that the social networking website was unjustly using their names and likenesses without compensation. Both parties settled in December for $20 million USD, with a portion of the settlement being used to pay the class action lawyers’ fees. The rest will be divided up among Facebook users who appeared in Sponsored Story ads.
What does it have to do with me?
You’re one of the users who appeared on those Sponsored Story ads, in one way or another. The legal notice is inviting you to lay claim to a piece of the $20 million USD settlement, and depending on how many users actually go to claim their share, it can be anywhere from $5 up to $10.
Is this real? Is it actually legitimate?
Yes, it is. It’s been reported by many news sources as a legitimate story and not a reported hoax. But just to be sure – as these types of legitimate notices can be used by scam artists – you can check to see if the notice you got is the real thing. For example, it should list the complete address (as well as e-mail) of the firm involved in the lawsuit. It should also point to the Fraley v. Facebook settlement website (www.fraleyfacebooksettlement.com) and no other website.
How do I know if my legal notice is fake?
Compare the text of the notice you received with those published in legitimate sources online. It’s the only way to be sure. Other than that, here are some clues that should suggest that you have a fake version of this legal notice:
- If your notice comes with an attachment or a link and insists that you open it
- If your notice asks you to contact anyone else other than those mentioned above or pay any fees beforehand
- If your notice seems to be forwarded to you by another person or is asking to be forwarded to your contacts
- You received it, and yet you’re not currently a resident of in the United States
Always try to verify things first before you decide on doing anything else. This should apply to this kind of correspondence as well as any others.
You should also check if the hyperlinks in the notice you received actually lead to the websites that they promise. You can do so by hovering your mouse cursor over the hyperlink (but not clicking it). Your browser should indicate the proper URL.
Supposing my legal notice is the real deal, what should I do?
There are options you can choose to take, once you’ve verified that you are indeed a member of the class action lawsuit.
- Submit a claim form – The only way to be eligible to receive a payment. You submit a claim form by going to the settlement website and filling out an online form there.
- Exclude yourself – If you’re planning to file your own lawsuit about the legal claims of the settlement, then take this route.
- Object – You write to the Court why you don’t like the settlement and think that it shouldn’t be approved.
- Go to the “Fairness Hearing” – a “Fairness Hearing” will be held to decide upon the settlement itself. You can attend this hearing and speak about any objection to the case you filed.
- Do nothing – Just let the notice sit in your inbox and basically do nothing. You won’t get paid, but you are still eligible to receive the non-monetary benefits of the settlement, when they are decided on and approved by the Court. These benefits include (but are not limited to) a revised Facebook terms of service that will clearly explain the instances you agree to the display of your picture and profile name in Sponsored Stories, a mechanism in Facebook that will allow you to view your involvement and appearance in Facebook’s Sponsored Story ads, and a site setting/s that will allow you to prevent certain products or category of products to be sponsored with your appearance.
We want to make clear that as long as you’ve verified that the notice you received is in fact legitimate, then it’s pretty much safe for you to do any of the above.
We also want to reiterate that there are a LOT of scams involving Facebook, and that – while this settlement is the exception to the rule – users should still think twice before reacting immediately to anything similar that offers free money or get-rich-quick schemes. Verifying may be a bit tedious and time-consuming, but it beats being hoodwinked out of your hard-earned money.
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