Facebook’s timeline to fraud-a-geddon?

If you use Facebook you’ve probably heard of Timeline, a “new” feature that replaces the “traditional” profile page. However, you may be confused by Timeline–I know I am–and confusion could make you the target of a growing number of Timeline-related scams. As of January 3rd, the watchful folks at Inside Facebook were reporting 16 Timeline-related scam pages which had “collectively gained more than 71,000 likes…These pages are among the top search results when searching Facebook for “timeline.”

Why am I confused by Timeline? Well, I keep hearing that all Facebook users are going to have to use Timeline, but I’m not using it yet. That’s why I called it a “new” feature. Some people have been using it for a while but it is currently optional for most people and some of them–like me–have opted not to use it yet. When you do opt to use it, there is no going back to the previous profile arrangement. At least, that is my current impression based on what I have read so far.

As I understand it, the day is coming when every Facebook user will have to use Timeline. I’m thinking that day is when the confusion will really snowball because a lot of people will decide they don’t like Timeline and wonder to themselves: Can I remove Timeline? And the scam artists and click-jackers are getting ready for that day, offering bogus links on Facebook that promise Timeline removal.

Facebook Timeline remove or disableFor example, here you can see one such bogus Facebook page that wants you to click Like before continuing. In fact, the page is all about “liking” and one of the steps it requires in the 100% bogus process of Timeline removal is a grid of 45 Like buttons you must click.

After several other steps, including inviting all your friends to like the page, you get this message: “Wait For Few Days Your Request Will be forwarded To The Timeline Office” (original wording and capitalization).

Hopefully nobody out there believes there is a Timeline Office…

So far, Facebook has not been able to keep up with the policing of these scams. As I write this I see no warnings on the Facebook Security page about claims to deactivate Timeline, and nothing I’ve read on facebook.com makes it clear that the feature cannot be removed. Unless Facebook changes its mind and makes Timeline optional, the bottom line is that you will have to live with it and avoid the temptation to click on links promising to help you deactivate, remove, or disable Timeline; they are just not worth the risk.

Note: There are some legitimate web pages out there that describe a method of Timeline removal that worked when Timeline was in beta and linked to an app, but that method no longer applies. Also, you can trick Facebook into not showing you the Timeline by using an older web browser, or by telling your current brower to emulate an older browser, for example with the Firefox User Agent Switcher. However, this does not disable Timeline or remove it, and it does not prevent other Facebook users from seeing the Timeline view of you.

Author Stephen Cobb, ESET

  • mark jackson

    If you are not seeing Timeline when you view profile pages that have been Timeline enabled, then surely that means you have removed/disabled Timeline? That is all a lot of people want to do, they don't want to view profiles in Timeline format, as they are too busy, and higgledy-piggledy, and the solution to do that is as you say to either use IE7 or set your browser to pretend it is IE7, If you want a good guide on how to set your browser to impersonate IE7 and hence "disable" Timeline, google "Disable Facebook Timeline – FB Purity". 

  • Stephen Cobb

    Mark — The techniques that you describe do indeed hide the Timeline view for you, but that won't stop other people seeing your Timeline and it won't remove the Timeline from your account.
    What many people have said about Facebook Timeline is essentially that it makes too much personal data too easy to find. Yes, one can go through and hide things, but that strikes some people as a violation of the privacy principles of Notice and Consent. In other words, by making Timeline mandatory on all accounts, Facebook is imposing a new way for people to access your data and some people are not comfortable with that. Some of those people will be looking for ways to remove that view and scam artists will prey on that.

  • sally corley


    • David Harley

      Sally, I’m afraid you can’t remove it once you have it. Though there are heaps of scams out there trying to get you to install a plug-in or app that is supposed to remove it, if you fall for one you’re likely to get something far worse than Timeline.

  • Stephen Cobb (@zcobb)

    I'm not sure how Facebook is rolling out Timeline but it has not turned up on my account yet. This potentially means lots of people could still be at risk from these "remove Timeline" scams.
    One good Facebook change that you should investigate, before or after Timeline comes to your Facebook account is the Privacy setting called: Limit the Audience for Past Posts. This is under Privacy in the Account management menu (the tiny white downward pointing triangle on the upper right of the Facebook screen). This enables you to limit visibility of past posts to Friends in one simple action instead of — heaven forbid — having to adjust the setting of each one.
    Of course, you don't need to do this if you are happy for anyone to see all of your posts, but those of us who are not so keen to share with the rest of the world can avoid unexpected exposure through Timelne by making the change now.

  • paulymulligan

    i removed timeline on chrome,but it is still on explorer,i cant see why facebook just deal with it and reove it i didnt ask for it and it seems a lot of people do not want it?

    • David Harley

      @paulymulligan, you’re not really removing it, just changing your view of it. I have to agree that I can’t see the point of making it mandatory when so many people don’t like it.

  • Nicola

    I accidentally accepted FB Timeline. And now I have added Timeline *Remove* to display everyone's pages (including mine) the old way (in both FF and Chrome). It's not a scam – it works. I know it doesn't change the Timeline view for people without the add-on, but it changes the way I see it, and while that's not perfect (in that I realize I didn't undo the damage), I am very happy not to have to look at timelines! it's too bad FB won't let us revert. I don't see them hurrying to force the timeline on those who have not opted in.

    As for what people see: I have my friends divided into lists. And I have limited what each list sees – e.g., I play a game many of my friends don't play. The non-players do not see any posts from this game, as I have restricted that app's posts to the list of friends that do play. It's easy enough to do – though initially it might be time-consuming.

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