We have all at some point at least learned once not to just click on any email when it says it’s from Yahoo or a password reset to a site. At least we hope you check every link carefully that comes in your email as such. Now that most of our time has turned to Social media so have the hackers and scams from deep within the dark world wide web.
Cyber criminals can get to you easy on social media especially on Facebook. With more than a billion users, Facebook has become an easy way for scammers to rip off as many people as possible at once in a variety of different ways. These hackers and scammers are getting smarter and more innovative posing as the people running contests or freebie sites to find a way for you to reveal your personal information or send them money.
You need to know how to spot some big scams that are making the rounds and how to protect yourself. Here’s a few Facebook and social media scams to watch out for:
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. That same rule of thumb applies to Facebook and every other social media site, email chain etc. Any promise of a outrageous return on a small investment is probably a scam! If someone is messaging you on Facebook or Instagram claiming to be the owner of a contest or freebie site then contact the page you follow and see if that is the actual person. Most likely it’s a fraud. Just recently a friend who owns a freebie site told me about how a friend of theirs was messaged from a person on Instagram using the logo of the site on their page making it believable. They had claimed they were Paula Abdul trying to get that person to send in information and money. They would not give their phone number at first and when they did it was a Google Voice number that could not be traced easily. People actually fall for this and think they can send money to this person online who seems trustable then they never get anything back in return.
The same thing happens with loans online as we have found out for years here at Banklady.com. People have opened up sites claiming they were Banklady(TM) and they were told to send money via Western Union. They would then email our site asking why they have not received their loan. First of all, we do not give out loans. We direct people to find loans through our partners. We never claim to give out money to people directly and would never ask for anyone’s personal information. The same thing is happening with Facebook pages.
One warning sign that a post or offer on Facebook is a scam is if has one of those all-caps titles you can’t miss claiming you’re eligible for some “AMAZING” offer, deal, discount, or opportunity then it explains how you can “claim” the offer by giving out personal information or paying a fee.
Facebook Contest and Lottery Scams
Lottery scams come in all different shapes and sizes. On Facebook, the way it typically works is you get a message from someone saying you’ve won a huge lottery on Facebook but in order to claim your prize, you have to wire a payment to cover “insurance” or other fees. Don’t EVER wire money to win something. If you wire the money, you’ll never see it again. If you wire them money once they will continue to harass you for more “fee” payments claiming you’ll get more money in the end wasting more money.
Even if you receive a message from a friend, never send any type of payment or wire transfer without confirming whatever it is you’re paying for over the phone or in person. Even in person you have to beware of fake currency (see below). In some cases, criminals have hacked people’s Facebook accounts and sent messages as those people in order to fool their friends into handing over money. They also make up fake accounts under the disguise as your friend or a business.
How to avoid this scam:
Never send money to someone for a lottery prize or any other offer that requires you to pay to enter a contest to get a bigger prize or money back. Maybe at the gas station inside at the cash register or at the casino but NOT online. If you get a message from a friend on Facebook about winning something, or anything else involving sensitive information, call the friend directly or email them through a different platform in order to confirm what was sent in the message. This could also alert your friend if their account has been compromised. Check your friends pages for other odd posts to see if they were hacked and let Facebook know by reporting it and message your friend through another form of communication.
Fake money and Facebook being used to scam people out of their sneakers
In Michigan, police are investigating a string of fake money scams. Each time the setup is the same where the victims try to sell their shoes online and are given fake $100 bills. Police are urging people to be careful on “Buy Sell and Trade” Facebook groups, as they believe that’s where the suspects are finding their victims. The first incident happened in Battle Creek, where a young man tried to sell his sneakers to someone he met on one of those groups. Once he made the transaction, the victim was given a fake $100 bill. A friend of the man then saw the same shoes for sale on another Facebook page, so he set up a meeting while alerting police.
Airline ticket Scam
Even if an offer that seems too good to be true comes from a legitimate source on Facebook or appears to it’s probably too good to be true. This one has been around for a while and Southwest even posted about it on the company’s Facebook page as far back as 2011. The way it works is you see a post claiming that some big airline is giving away free flights for a year or some other big offer that sounds INCREDIBLE! All you have to do is share the photo, like the page and post a comment to win. We have also seen it with not only travel but free Bitcoins.
While figuring out that you fell for a scam and didn’t actually win free airfare for a year is now the downfall of this scam. The bigger problem is when Facebook users see fake offers like this they end up clicking on a link posted by a criminal which could expose everything in your phone or laptop to the scammer on the other end.
Don’t believe offers that are too good to be true from any airline or big company on Facebook. If you think it may be real, go to the company’s website directly and not through Facebook. If you want to make sure a company page on Facebook is real, hover your mouse over the blue check mark on the profile page. If the page is legit, you’ll see a pop-up that says “Verified Page.” If you don’t see that, then someone has created a background image to make it look like the page is verified. Although some small business pages such as ours does not have a verified page and honestly we do not know why they turn down some legit businesses. An alternative way to check if a company is legit is to go directly to the website and see if there is a phone number to call and/or a street address listed that you can verify.
Always be cautious before clicking on a contest or other offer link via Facebook. If you can get to it by going to the company’s website directly, do it that way. It’s much safer.
“Secret Sister” gift scam
Many Facebook and Instagram users have seen posts or direct messages inviting them to spend just $10 with the promise that they’ll receive several gifts in return. Officials say this exchange is actually just a pyramid scheme, meaning most people who participate aren’t going to get what they expect when they sign up. They can expect nothing when they send in money. No one should have to send in money to win a contest.
People are seeing this on Facebook instead of the old way of using letters allowing it to spread a lot faster. The “secret sister gift exchange” is essentially just a classic pyramid scheme. You send a gift, send the instructions to more people, and the exchange continues on and on. So the promise is that for your first $10 gift you give, and passing on the instructions, you’ll end up with 36 gifts two weeks later. The problem is, the exchange requires a lot of people to keep it going, and your odds of even getting one gift back are slim. According to one report, by the time you get to the 11th level of the exchange, it would require the entire population of the U.S. to participate to make it work.
There are also some concerns around the legality of these types of “exchanges.” According to a report from Snopes, “In short, the problem wasn’t whether any one person expected to receive presents back it was the inherently unfulfillable promise that a $10 buy in would result in hundreds of dollars worth of returns for others. Whether or not a user participated “honestly” they had no hand in ensuring those who bought in under them would receive any return on their initial investment, and the risk in question problematic precisely because it was undertaken on behalf of other folks.”
They’re illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants. Chain letters are a form of gambling, and sending them through the mail (or delivering them in person or by computer, but mailing money to participate) violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute. (Chain letters that ask for items of minor value, like picture postcards or recipes, may be mailed, since such items are not things of value within the meaning of the law.)”
Avoid email, text and phone scams
Scammers are everywhere, so it’s crucial to always be cautious when: clicking on an email from an address you don’t know or recognize, responding to a text from a number you don’t recognize, and calling back a phone number you don’t know or recognize.
If you receive an email claiming to be from your bank or other company that has your personal information, don’t click on any of the links. Head over to the browser and log into your account separately to check for any new notices. You can also call the company about the information sent via email.
Responding to a text from a number you don’t recognize could also make any information stored in your phone vulnerable to hackers. If you don’t know who the number is that sent you a message then research it and find out who and where the text came from.
Lastly, If you get a missed call on your cell phone from a number you don’t recognize, don’t call it back. Check the number online and see what reputation it has and see what their message on voicemail is before speaking with them. chances are it’s probably a telemarketer or robocall but could also be a scammer.