There’s another Facebook hoax going around, one that insists you must now pay a fee if you want to keep your account private on the popular social media website. Luckily, according to the original hoax post, you can skirt the fee by posting on your wall something to the effect that you do not give Facebook permission to use your content, you own the copyright to all your photos, etc.

It’s a hoax. Utterly, completely, entirely a hoax. Harmless, but still pointless. But if that’s the case, what does someone stand to gain from starting it in the first place? First, you have to look for the differences in a hoax and a scam. In a scam, someone is trying to get something from you—usually money or your personal identifiable information—while a hoax, is just a silly joke or an attempt to spread a negative rumor about a company or entity. For all we know, the originator of the latest in a long line of similar hoaxes did it just to see if he could get people to share it. A more nefarious reason might be to see which social media users are gullible enough to fall for such a ridiculous concept, and then attempt to target those individuals with actual fee-based scams.

Sadly, hoaxes like this one go viral because they’re too easy to share across a vast network of connections and because they play up our emotions. Who enjoys the thought of waking up one day and finding out that Facebook changed the setting on all of your children’s pictures to Public? Or the thought that the US government leaves military dogs behind to fend for themselves after troops return home to the States (a hoax that has even gotten national attention in the op-ed sections of major newspapers… it’s not true at all, but that doesn’t stop people from sharing it on Facebook)?

It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of both hoaxes and scams. Sharing a hoax really only garners you some embarrassment but can change other users’ perceptions of you. The last thing you want is for your boss to find your ludicrous post that states, “In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention).” Hint: there’s no such thing as the Berner Convention, and you’d know exactly what Facebook can do with your content if you’d actually read the Terms of Service when you signed up.

As for scams, though, it’s vital that you recognize the signs of a scam in order to protect yourself from financial harm or identity theft. In scams, you’re often offered something outrageous for free and then led to another location to pay a fee, some taxes, shipping and handling, or other strange cost. Any offer that expects you to submit a lot of very sensitive information about yourself is also likely to be a scam. Remember to keep you guard up and stay alert to the tactics that thieves and jokesters use in order to avoid embarrassment or actual harm.