Facebook is undoubtedly the most popular social media platform on the planet. Connecting with long lost friends and family is great; sharing news and information is fun. However, all that online interaction does not come without some danger. There are dozens of reported scams on Facebook to be aware of and avoid. Stories of people being duped and losing money are becoming more common every day. Stay alert and be on the lookout!
The Most Common Scams on Facebook
Social media provides a unique opportunity for thieves and cybercriminals to stretch their creative muscles and trick innocent victims into giving them money, clicking a link that infects their computer with malware or even more malicious intentions.
See Who is Watching You/Facebook Profile Viewer
One of the oldest and most common scams on Facebook consists of cyber criminals trying to entice users to click and download an add-on that will show them who has been viewing their profiles. The advertisement for one such program promises the “Facebook Profile Viewer” will show you anyone who has been stalking you online. However, it’s a lie; there is no such tool or way to see who visits your page. Facebook has confirmed that it is impossible with the infrastructure of their website, and it is a scam.
How Facebook Profile Scams Work
When users click the link, their computers are infected with malware, which allows the hacker to get inside their computers and steal real information like bank account data, credit card numbers, or worse. Some of these programs allow hackers access to your profile, and then they can duplicate your account or take control of it. It is a type of phishing scam and the FBI reports more than 20,000 incidents per year.
Facebook Charging Hoax of 2016
We have all seen variants of this one, an urgent message that warns you that very soon, Facebook is going to start charging you or take possession of all your content and delete it if you don’t pay. The message urges users to re-post to all their friends and family. It makes no sense, of course, that by posting a message, you will be exempt from a fee Facebook would charge, but thousands of people are falling for it anyway. This type of Facebook scam originated back in 2016 and continues to pop up every now and then.
Some posted examples are:
“Now it’s official! It has been published in the media. Facebook has just released the entry price: $5.99 to keep the subscription of your status to be set to “private.” If you paste this message on your page, it will be offered free (I said paste not share); if not tomorrow, all your posts can become public. Even the messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed. After all, it does not cost anything for a simple copy and paste.”
“It’s official. Signed at 10:33. It’s even passed on TV. Facebook will start charging this summer. If you copy this to your wall your icon will turn blue, and your Facebook will be free for you. Please pass this message, if not, your icon will be deleted. P.S. this is serious, the icon will turn blue. (Copy and Paste to your wall.) “
These are just a few of the dozens of versions seen on Facebook.
How The Hoax Happens
The actual scam is more of a hoax, but it does get people to post useless information on their pages. There does not appear to be any links to click or any way Facebook scammers can use this hoax to extract funds or private information from the user, but it sure gets a lot of attention.
Download a Facebook Dislike Button
Back in 2015, Mark Zuckerberg publicly hinted at finding a way to show a sad or negative response to a post rather than a “like.” This mention spawned a whole host of scams on Facebook where cybercriminals created ads luring users to “Get newly introduced Facebook Dislike button on your profile” before anyone else. They even used a countdown to pressure people into clicking quickly while it was still available via “invite-only.”
How it Works
Unfortunately, clicking any of the links in this fake Facebook link or email downloaded malware to your computer and possibly provided access to your Facebook account to the hacker. More than 6,300 hacking offenses occur in the U.S. annually.
Fake Viral Videos
Fake viral videos are another prevalent type of scams on Facebook. Criminals use hot topics in the news to send around invites to view the juicy details via a YouTube video. The Facebook scammer profile is usually faked or hacked accounts to make it appear legitimate.
How Fake Viral Video Scam Works
In this scam, a hacker takes control of a user’s account and then sends messages with a link to a video to all the person’s family and friends. They trust the link because it appears to be coming from someone they know. These videos are usually risky or tantalizing to get you to click and watch. Before you can watch the video, however, it prompts you to “install a browser add-on” or “update your video player.” Once you do that, your computer is infected with malware, and there is no video to view. You have been scammed!
Free Giveaways, Gift Cards or Coupons
In life, nothing is ever really free, especially on Facebook. Cyber thieves have offered everything from free coupons at Starbucks, Cheesecake Factory gift cards to lottery winnings, and windfalls from contests you never entered. If it appears to be too good to be true, it is.
How it Works
Sometimes the news appears to come from Facebook directly or some government lottery agency, but you receive an instant message or a post on your page that you have won something. All you have to do is click a link or send a processing fee, shipping fee, or some other form of payment to get your prize.
Unfortunately, these are all phishing attempts to get you to click on a link, give away your private information for identity theft, or merely a way to steal money from you. More than 8,500 people are the victims of identity theft every year.
Confirm Your Account/Your Account has Been Canceled
Another pervasive theme seen on Facebook is emails sent to users claiming that their account is going to be canceled or their privacy has been violated, and they need to confirm their account quickly. These Facebook privacy scam may look like they come from Facebook with real logos and a legitimate-sounding email address, but they are fake.
How it Works
Scammers send out troves of phishing emails, hoping that even a few people will click the link, downloading malware to their computer. Even worse sometimes the link takes them to a fake website where they will enter their login credentials, and they will be stolen. Most often, these emails are meant to scare users into quickly clicking without thinking and infecting their computers. This is how ransomware ends up on your machine, and suddenly, some stranger has control, and they demand money to free up your computer. More than $3 million dollars is lost to ransomware each year.
The Most Recent Scams Seen on Facebook
As with everything, scams on Facebook evolve. Thieves are always trying new ways to trick, scheme, and obfuscate. Some of the more recent scams on Facebook include:
One of the most heinous scams that toy with the emotions of others is the romance scams. Because your Facebook profile often shows whether or not you are single, divorced, in a relationship, and other details, it’s easy for Facebook scammers to get a picture of who you are and how to work you.
How Romance Scams Work
You may get a friend request from a total stranger wanting to get to know you. They may represent themselves as divorced, widowed, or in an unhappy relationship. These scams develop over time, and the person may engage with you online for a long time, stringing you along until you grow an attachment to them, and then they will bring up the issue of money. They don’t have enough for a ticket to visit you in person or need a visa, or for some medical reason, and they plead with you for help. Since you now trust this person and believe you have a relationship, often, victims will pay, and then they will never hear from the scammer again. The average amount stolen in these types of scams is $2,600 per victim. There are roughly 21,000 romance scam incidents reported per year.
Facebook Messenger Scam
Fakes profiles are a big problem on Facebook. Hackers are using these cloned profiles to scam users by pretending to be long-lost friends and using Facebook Messenger to communicate.
Back in August of 2019, the AARP recorded a story of a woman named Lee, who had been duped by this scam. Lee, who was out on disability and struggling financially, was primed when a friend messaged her on Facebook, telling her she had gotten $80,000 from a government grant from the International Financial Corporation Grant group. Lee was coerced into buying iTunes gift cards to pay the fee and then handing them over to her agent, “Richard Harrison.” When the scammer told her the $50,000, she was promised was tied up with the IRS and they required more to release it, she finally got suspicious and reported it to the FBI. By then, it was too late. Lee was duped out of $1,450, which was more than she could afford but a lot less than some other victims. More than 8,000$ per year is lost to scams like these.
Malicious Tagging Scam
The Better Business Bureau is warning people about a “malicious tagging” scam where users are tricked into downloading a link that infects their computer with malware. Because you are tagged by what looks like a “friend,” you are more likely to click the link to watch the video and download the video player which is actually a virus.
Steps to Avoid Scams on Facebook
These are just some of the dozens of scams floating around Facebook which have victimized thousands of members. Some tips to keeping your social media and content safe are:
- Never click links in posts, especially if they sound overly enticing using strong words like “shocking,” “exclusive,” or “you won’t believe this.”
- Watch out for abbreviated links. Hackers hide malicious website links using Bitly or another URL shortener.
- Don’t trust that your friends are actually your friends. A lot of profiles are faked, duplicated, and hacked.
- Thoroughly review your privacy settings on Facebook and secure everything, including images, check-ins, and likes.
- Watch out for phishing emails and scams that look like they come from legitimate sources.
- Never share your Facebook login with anyone and change your password frequently.
- Always report fraud to Facebook; they have a page explaining how: facebook.comhelp/reportlinks
Always use common sense online. If someone is offering to give you something for free, it probably isn’t. Keep an eye out for these and other scams.