The act of impersonating a service to force a target to give up their login credentials is phishing. While phishing on Facebook is essentially no different from any other form of phishing, it’s important because some of the other scams on this list depend heavily on compromised accounts.
When a scammer sends a message requesting the target to log in to their account, retrieve their password, or check account data, most phishing takes place via email. The destination is taken to a website that looks very much like Facebook when this link is clicked but is actually hosted elsewhere. By looking at the address bar of your browser, you can spot a scam like this. If something other than “facebook.com” is read, then you are being fooled.
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Also, Facebook doesn’t always send out messages requesting users to update their accounts. If you have not signed in for years, it should not take any action from you to retain your Facebook account. Even if you believe a notice is legitimate, rather than following a connection in an email, you should always visit Facebook.com directly, just to be sure.
Because Facebook is a social network, when using the service, your friends influence your actions. If you see that you have liked a group, shared a message, or suggested service to a trusted friend or family member on the platform, you are much less likely to doubt it. It becomes a tacit endorsement to connect with your peers.
A scammer has access to your entire list of friends via the keys to your Facebook account. They will tell you who your message is, and how often, and even what you’re talking about. This data could be used to execute highly targeted personal scams, or it could be used to spread a much wider net over the list of your whole friend.
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The Ticket Scalper Event Scam
To trick you into paying over the odds for event tickets, scammers have taken to using Facebook’s events system. In the first place, these enormously overpriced tickets will never exist, and if you are unlucky enough to fall for the scam, then you are unlikely to be able to get your money back.
For a show with limited tickets and high demand, the scammer first creates an event page, sometimes revealing that they have already sold out. Many such scammers build “company” pages with legitimate-looking activities, which typically consist entirely of Facebook events for similar shows.
On Facebook, the event is then advertised, which costs the scammers very little to do. Many users can click on “Interested” or “Going” in their newsfeeds as the post scrolls by, which further gives a sense of credibility to the case. The connection to tickets for events, sadly, does not point to an official ticket source.
Scammers would instead insert links to websites for ticket resale. These already occur in places that are morally and legally grey. Scalpers who purchase tickets en-masse to flip for two, three, or four times the price usually use such pages. The more tickets are sought for, the more profit there is to be made. Many of these resellers do not, in the first place, have tickets to sell.
If you’re fortunate enough to get your ticket, you’re going to pay vastly inflated rates for it. Many reseller websites point to the terms and conditions that specify that they are not responsible for any sellers that do not deliver if your ticket never arrives. You do not have a lot of consumer rights, depending on the local rules. Not everyone has the money to fight a court war, even though you do.
Always purchase from legitimate ticket outlets to stop this scam. Don’t blindly believe or click on events that appear in your news feed with “Interested.” Instead, you would like to see and follow official links if you want to purchase tickets, leave Facebook, and check for the show or artist.
The Unexpected Prize or Lottery Scam
Most of us wouldn’t fall for a letter in the mail that tells us we’ve won a lottery that we have no recollection of entering. Most of us wouldn’t fall for an email or random message on Facebook notifying us of this either. But what if you received this exact message and a message from a friend telling you that they’ve already cashed in their winnings?
This is the advance-fee scam, also known as the “Nigerian prince ” or 419 scams (as they violate section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code, which deals with fraud), with a twist. Compromised accounts are the perfect breeding ground for this sort of scam. The endorsement of a friend whom you trust can be enough to tip you over the line. These friends will often comment that they saw your name on the “list of winners,” which you should always treat as a red flag.
Ultimately the scam takes the same turn as every other 419 scams out there. You’ll be told that a “processing” or “administration” fee must be paid to send the money to your account. Sometimes scammers will try multiple times to get you to pay “fines” or “transaction fees” related to the balance. Suspiciously, these fees can never be subtracted from your winnings.
By the time the penny drops, you could have put hundreds or thousands of dollars into the scam. The lure of $150,000 could persuade many of us to spend $1500 without a second thought. You should always question anyone who wants you to spend money to receive a prize.
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Fake Gift Cards and Coupons
You’ve already seen these web-advertised gift card or discount coupon scams but never thought of clicking on them. But when they are exchanged by a mate, that’s not the case, a strategy many scammers rely on to attract more victims.
A buddy posts a free gift card or a major discount code on Facebook with a large retailer. Curiously, you click on it and are asked to complete a form so that your code can be obtained. You’re told to share the post at the end of the process, at which point you will obtain what was promised to you. The issue is, it never comes with your gift card or discount.
There’s nothing else you might say about this, but you’ve already been scammed. Online value is given to personal information, especially names linked to addresses, date of birth, and a valid email address. Your data could be sold for marketing purposes to spammers who can use them. You’re likely to get a lot of cold calls and unsolicited emails.
Often, by sending bogus gift cards to a physical address, scammers will pursue the scam in reverse. Your data is taken to be sold somewhere when you “activate” the gift card by visiting the connection on the back, and your gift card never works.
As part of the argument or entry, be instantly wary of any competition or bid that asks you to share the message. Years ago, Facebook and Twitter cracked down on this activity, and it is no longer tolerated as a legitimate way to join competitions or demand discounts or store loans.
Bad Sellers on the Facebook Marketplace
A useful way to flip old goods or purchase second-hand products in your local area is the Facebook Marketplace and a large number of Buy/Sell/Swap groups on the website. There’s also a big opportunity for scammers and rogue actors to make things go wrong.
You can never purchase an item that you can not inspect or pick up yourself in person on the Facebook Marketplace. Facebook Marketplace is not eBay and does not have customer security in place to protect you from vendors who will not submit the products you have ordered. In addition, sellers also use personal payment reservation features on services like PayPal for friends and relatives, where there is no option to reverse the payment.
You may also open yourself up to other concerns, such as meeting a seller in private to perform a cash transaction and being robbed. If you meet someone from the Facebook Marketplace in person, do so in a sensible, well-lit, and public location. Take someone you trust with you, and if anything you buy sounds too good to be true, then trust the feeling of your gut and don’t show up.
The Facebook Marketplace is used to sell stolen goods quickly, particularly gadgets such as tablets and bicycles. If you purchase stolen goods and they are traced back to you, you will lose everything you bought at the very least, and you will also lose all the money you paid for that item. You could also be charged with handling stolen merchandise if the police suspect that you knew the goods were stolen.
Romance scams are elaborate, but many have been fooled by them. Many of the time, to obtain money and other items from the victim, the scammer would use a partnership. If they go too far, these scams may have devastating effects far beyond economic loss.
Always be suspicious of someone you meet online because proving that they are who they claim they are so difficult. Even phone calls and conversations with webcams may appear legitimate while actually being misleading. Sadly, those who are drawn by this scam are unable or unable to see that they are being exploited.
A love interest that you have met on Facebook (or anywhere online) asking for money is the biggest red flag to search for. Their arguments can seem compelling, and in an effort to convince you that they have a genuine need, they can pull on heartstrings. They might tell they are low on rent, that they need an operation for their cat, or that their car needs urgent repairs.
When the scammer wants more than just cash, this scam can take a very dark turn. The recent case of Maria Exposto, a Sydney woman, shows just how bad things can go wrong. “In a backpack at Kuala Lumpur airport, Maria was found with over 1 kilogram of methamphetamine while traveling back from a trip where she was supposed to meet a U.S. military soldier who identified himself as “Captain Daniel Smith.
Her supposed interest in love never came, and instead, she became acquainted with a stranger (the scammer) who had persuaded her to bring the backpack back to Australia. Maria was accused of drug trafficking by a Malaysian court and sentenced to death in May 2018. Before her sentence was reversed and she was freed, it took five years in prison and 18 months on death row.
For a romance scam, this is an interesting turn, but it’s not the first time it’s happened. In April 2011, because she, too, had fallen for a romantic scam, New Zealand woman Sharon Armstrong was found trafficking cocaine out of Argentina.’
Clickbait Used to Spread Malware
This is the same tactic used by misleading advertisers to push clicks all over the site. You’re going to see an ad for a “shocking video” or an “amazing transformation” or another title that’s equally scandalous. When you click on it, before landing on a website that attempts to install malware on your computer, you will normally be taken through a few redirects.
These links also surface on Facebook at timely times, such as when the rollout of new functionality is addressed by the social media network. Any of these scams, such as the fabled “dislike” button or a way to see who has seen your profile, offer to add functionality to your account. A fast internet search can show any legitimate changes if in doubt, and the clickbait can be ignored.
Although Facebook can delete links or add disclaimers in addition to deceptive and fake news, the use of websites that shorten URLs and redirect links is used heavily to avoid detection. You should totally avoid spammy material like this for your protection (and to deprive the scammers of clicks).
The Golden Rule
When you obey one simple rule, many (but not all) scams can be avoided: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. For the rest, you just need to be cautious and always doubt the individual’s intentions, whether it’s a Facebook event, a sponsored post, or an unsolicited letter.
These scams (and many new ones) are bound to occur more often as Facebook continues to expand and have a more critical effect on how we live our lives. Social networking is not the only service affected by these issues, and on crowdfunding platforms and many other online services, scams are prevalent.
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