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Facebook hit by new paid access hoax

No, Facebook is not going to be charging you for access. If your friends are posting status updates claiming that Facebook will be charging membership fees, don't believe it, because it's a hoax.

The folks over at anti-virus firm Sophos are warning that this tried-and-true scam resurfaced last week and has "spread widely" across Facebook. This time, users are posting status updates, which may be written in all caps, claiming that Facebook has just released a "price grid" for membership.

"$9.99 per month for gold member services, $6.99 per month for silver member services, $3.99 per month for bronze member services, free if you copy and paste this message before midnight tonight," the message reads.

It goes on to say that when users subsequently log-on they will be prompted for payment. Unless, of course, they copy the message and post it on their wall, at which time their "icon will turn blue and Facebook will be free." The message also says, "it is official it was even on the news."

In reality, there is no such price grid, and again, Facebook has no plans to charge for service. As a rule of thumb, if something you read on Facebook or email looks funny or sounds like a scam, it probably is.

A similar scam cropped up late last year and made enough of an impact for Facebook to step in and formally deny it. The social network said "we have no plans to charge for Facebook. It's free and always will be."

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said the rumour shows no signs of slowing down. A quick search of the popular social network shows that the scam is still active this morning.

"The problem is that it's so easy to share a message like this with your online friends that people will do it automatically just in case it's true, rather than spend twenty seconds searching the net to see if it's a hoax or not," Cluley wrote in a blog post.

"Once again, a hoax is being given oxygen by users who believe they are doing their online friends a favour. The truth is that they're unwittingly polluting the service with poppycock and disinformation," he added.

One paid service Facebook is exploring, however, is Promoted Posts, which will allow users to pay to have certain posts receive more prominence on their friends' news feed. It is optional, however, and - according to some - is a new tool for jerks.

Facebook is also currently and controversially exploring the idea of on-site gambling - a "genius" money-making initiative according to tech luminary John C. Dvorak.