Don't fall for these five Facebook scams
Here at Geek Squad, it goes without saying that we’re huge Facebook fans. But while Facebook can be a ton of fun, it’s also home to a number of scams and swindles to catch out the unwary. The latest scam is one that pops up several times a year in one form or another but still manages to fool thousands of users! Don't panic though – our Agents are on hand to help you stay safe.
Facebook scams can take many forms. At their most harmless, they’re simply annoying – posting spam to your wall and annoying your friends and followers. But some of them are altogether nastier, posing a serious threat to your personal data and even finances.
The good news is, our Agents are dab hands at spotting this sort of thing – and below, we’ve exposed five of the worst scams currently doing the rounds on social media.
Before we begin, though, we highly recommend that you follow the Geek Squad UK team on Facebook if you don’t already. We’ll always share tips and tricks for staying safe online, whatever the latest threats are – and you’ll also have a front-row seat for all of the fascinating, informative and entertaining articles our Agents post every day!
With that little aside out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the most nefarious (or simply annoying) scams you might encounter on Facebook, starting with the most recent one we've spotted!
Who doesn't dream of getting away from it all? The open road, the freedom to go anywhere, and it'd be even better in a fully tricked-out luxury camper van! An amazing prize for sure, or at least it would be – if it existed.
The fake RV giveaway is a perennial favourite of Facebook scammers because, well, people keep falling for it! Of course, there's no prize to be had here; the whole thing is just another variant on the all-too-common 'Like-farming' scam.
Facebook pages are big business, and a page with a high level of activity or a large follower base can be worth quite a bit of money. As such, scammers will frequently set a page up and get people to interact with it by any means possible – and a fake competition is arguably the most effective tool at their disposal.
The general rule with these kind of scams is, if it looks to good to be true it probably is! If you look at the page itself you can see it's not been in existence very long, and doesn't even claim to be affiliated with a large company or even n RV manufacturer.
That then leads you to the question of why a seemingly random company would be giving away such a massive prize – and of course, the answer is they wouldn't!
All the same, it may seem like you've got nothing to lose by entering – but these scams work because people engage with them. If nobody entered, they'd stop pretty quickly – so don't encourage them. By sharing these posts you're encouraging the scammers to carry on and also possibly leading your Facebook friends into falling for them too.
This is actually one of the less sophisticated scams, as it doesn't link to an external website or harvest any additional data – but, depending on your Facebook privacy settings, you could still be making yourself vulnerable to more spam and other unwanted social media attention.
TYPE 'AMEN' FOR A SICK CHILD OR DISABLED PERSON
Although at first glance this seems to be an innocent way to show your compassion, it's arguably the most distateful of all the scams currently circulating on Facebook.
Someone will share a picture of a sick child and simply ask you to type "amen" as a prayer for them, then share it on.
There's also a variation using a picture of an attractive disabled girl, generally an amputee, with a caption along the lines of "My husband doesn't think I'm beautiful because I'm disabled - can I get a share prove him wrong?" Nothing wrong with showing a bit of support, right?
But this is another scam – and unfortunately one that the people in the pictures have no idea they're involved in.
The sharing and commenting serves a double purpose for the originator of the post. All that engagement is fantastic for their page, making it more valuable and also giving it more 'weight' within Facebook. If Facebook sees a page generating a ton of engagement, it's more likely to promote its content to people. This kind of cheap, dishonest post is often used by would-be social media "celebrities" and YouTubers to boost their followings.
More worryingly, however, these kinds of posts can also act as a kind of 'mark' test for scammers – a mark being a potential scam victim.
By engaging with one of these posts, you're basically filling in a survey that says "Yes, I'm quite gullible and tend to take everything I see on social media at face value". That can then lead to you becoming a target for far more serious follow-ups, like phishing scams, through direct messaging.
By far the worst aspect of this scam, though, is the unauthorised use of the pictures themselves. These are all used without the permission of the original owners – and it's unlikely that any of them would want themselves or their sick child used to scam people.
Out of all the scams we've covered, this is the one we'd ask people to stop engaging with immediately – beyond the potential danger to the user, it's also potentially harmful and upsetting to the innocent people whose pictures have been hijacked.
'Account Suspended' scams
This scam is particularly nasty: falling victim to it could cost you control of your own Facebook profile, and possibly more!
It all starts when you receive a Facebook message from the “Facebook Security Team” or someone similarly official-sounding. The message claims that someone has reported you for violation of Facebook’s terms of service – and that if you don’t click a link to respond, your account will be suspended or even deleted.
But of course, the message is a lie. Click the link, and you’ll be whisked away to a deceptive website that’s designed to look like the real Facebook site – but is in fact designed to steal your personal details. First, you’ll be asked to log in – inadvertently sending your username and password to the scammers. From there, you might even be asked to “verify your identity” using details such as your credit card number – but even if you smell a rat at this point and back out, they’ve still got full access to your Facebook account and all its information!
Thankfully, protecting yourself is simple. Facebook will never contact you directly through the Facebook messaging service. If they need to contact you about an account issue, you’ll receive a unique and readily identifiable notification if your main News Feed when you log in.
For that reason, you should never click a link in a message purporting to be from Facebook. And if you’re ever presented with a Facebook login screen, make sure you check your browser’s address bar before entering your account details: if you don’t see a proper “Facebook.com” address with a little ‘lock’ icon to symbolise a secure connection, close the page and walk away!
Recently, you may have seen a post shared on Facebook warning you to beware of accepting a second friend request from somebody you're already friends with. And while many highly shared warnings are themselves bogus, this one is actually worth paying attention to.
It refers to a scam known as ‘Facebook cloning’ – and here’s how it works:
The scammers search Facebook for a user whose profile that has a lot of public information on it. Then, they download the images and personal data, and set up a nearly identical profile in that user’s name.
Then, they go about adding all of that user’s friends to the new, fake profile – hoping they’ll be tricked into adding them for a second time.
From there, the scammers can post scammy links and send deceptive messages to their heart’s content. These can take any number of forms, including the scams we’ve identified on this list – and because they seem to come from someone you know and trust, it’s all too easy to be taken in.
For that reason, it’s always worth double-checking when you receive a friend request from someone you already know. It’s possible it’s just a misunderstanding – but if someone’s using your friend's identity to target others, they ought to know about it!
In fact, if you suspect that a profile is fake or fraudulent, it's a good idea to report it to Facebook yourself – you can find instructions for doing so on their help pages here.
The 'Facebook lottery'
This is the modern, Facebook-flavoured version of a scam that’s been doing the round by both post and email for decades.
It all starts when you receive a mysterious message claiming that you’ve won a lottery that you don’t even remember entering – and all you need to do to claim it is pay a relatively small ‘administration’ fee or similar.
At this point, you probably know what happens next: the fee you pay disappears forever – along with the scammers and any prospect of ever claiming your surprise lottery bonanza.
Now, when it’s put that way, you might wonder how anybody could fall for this kind of scam. But there’s a reason it’s been around for so long: it works.
It preys on the most basic human impulses – and all too often, those who fall for it are the elderly or otherwise vulnerable.
For that reason, it’s important to be aware of how it operates. The message usually follows a friend request from an unknown person claiming to be a member of Facebook’s staff – although it might also come from the ‘cloned’ account of one of your friends, as described above. Inside the message, you’ll be told that you’ve won an extravagant sum on the ‘Facebook lottery’ and asked to click a link or contact a certain user to claim your prize.
When you do, the request for cash soon follows – and even if you don’t pay up, the link you’re asked to click often comes loaded with dangerous malware or viruses.
Like I say, this is one of the more brazen scams out there – but people do fall victim to it. So if somebody you know tells you about this fantastic prize they’ve won through Facebook, make sure you let them know the real score – and if they’re still convinced, point them to this article!
This should help keep you safe from some of the worst scams doing the rounds at the moment – but if you've seen anything dodgy we've missed, do your bit and let our readers know about it in the comments below!