Watch Out for Facebook Scams

Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with family members and friends, but it also used frequently among scammers to identify and communicate with potential victims. Here are 3 scams to watch out for.
March 09, 2016

Beware of the following 3 scams that commonly occur on Facebook:

1. Facebook Friend Impersonator

You receive a message on Facebook from one of your friends or relatives that tells you he or she has just won money, and your name is on the list of winners too! Your “friend” will assure you of its legitimacy and how you only need to pay a small fee in taxes, shipping fees, or other fees in order to claim your money. In some instances, you will first receive a friend request from a friend or family member that proceeds to share the same type of message with you.

If this has happened, then your friend or family member’s account has been hacked, or a scammer has created a fake profile using your friend’s name, photos, and other information without permission. Facebook is an easy way for scammers to reach networks of people, and in this case, by posing as someone you trust. If you happen to add a scammer, they have access to information that could lead to identity theft or other fraudulent activity such as getting money from you in “fees.”

What should you do if you receive a friend request from someone you don’t know, or if your own account is spoofed? Here are a few tips if you should happen to come across this situation:

  • Always double check friend requests: Don’t just automatically click “accept” for new requests. Take a few moments to look over the profile and verify that account is a real person, not a scam. Scan your list of current Friends to see if any show up twice (the newer account is going to be the scam one).
  • Don’t blindly trust friends’ recommendations: Just because a link, video, or other information is shared by a friend doesn’t mean that it’s safe to click. It could be a fake account, a hacker, or mean that your friend hasn’t done his or her research.
  • Watch for poor grammar: Scam Facebook posts are often riddled with typos and poor English.
  • Alert your friends: If you receive suspicious messages from a Facebook friend, call your friend to alert them to the situation. Otherwise, they may never know that their account has been impersonated.
  • Report fake accounts to Facebook: Facebook does not allow accounts that are pretending to be someone else. Here are instructions on reporting them.

2. Facebook Lottery

You receive a message or email from someone claiming to be an employee of Facebook. The message states that you have won several thousand dollars in prize money and that you simply are responsible for paying a fee upfront in taxes. The “Facebook employee” may also message you to say a representative will pick up the payment in person at your house, or they may ask you to wire transfer the tax money. The only problem is that there’s no such thing as a Facebook lottery, and they will likely require you to pay upfront for taxes, shipping fees, processing fees, etc. If you are ever asked to pay for something you’ve won, it’s a scam!

Watch out for these red flags:

  • You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery.
  • You have to give personal information. Anytime someone tries to get your bank account number, Social Security Number or other sensitive information, that should be an automatic red flag. There is also no need to access financial information, like a credit card number in response to a sweepstakes promotion.
  • You have to pay to win. It’s illegal to ask you to pay or buy something to enter or increase your odds of winning. Legitimate prizes do not come with processing fees, and taxes are paid directly to the Internal Revenue Service after winnings are collected.
  • You have to wire money or use prepaid debit cards.  If you are asked to use these transfer methods in order to get a prize or any other large sum of money, that is a major red flag. It’s difficult to track these types of transactions, so you will have little to no way of getting your money back.

3. Fake Military Members Asking For Help

Scammers, usually out of Ghana or Nigeria steal identities of real soldiers on social networking sites like Facebook and pose as military members. Others create identities off of British military members. After posting pictures and stories, the scammers contact women. After talking to you for a while, the scammer will ask you for your help. Scammers ask for everything from laptop computers to money for airfare so they can fly back to the U.S. and visit you. Victims have been cheated out of up to $23,000.

Be wary of anyone who:

  • Asks to talk or chat on an outside email or messaging service, such as Facebook messaging. This allows fraudsters to carry out scams without the dating site having a record of the encounter.
  • Claims to be from this country but is currently traveling, living or working abroad. In addition to military ploy described above, scammers also pretend to be temporarily working overseas.
  • Has a suspicious Facebook profile: Scammers often use the names and photos of real people to create fake Facebook profiles. Their profiles tend to have few friends and be rife with grammatical errors. Also check to see when they joined. Recent pages are another red flag.
  • Asks you for money or credit card information. In some cases the scammer will claim an emergency like a sick relative or stolen wallet, and will ask you to wire money. The first wire transfer is small but the requests keep coming and growing. Or he may ask for airfare to come for a visit.
  • Sends you emails containing questionable links to third-party websites. Third-party links can contain malware that’s designed to steal personal information off your computer.