Facebook is a scammer’s dream come true. Where else can they find an easy-to-reach audience of 1.3 billion people? Even if only 1% of people see the scam and only 1% of those people fall for the scam, that’s still 130,000 people, and you could be one of them if you aren’t careful.
Spotting Facebook scams can be tough because they come in a lot of different forms. Earlier this year,we told you about five common types of scams you’ll find on Facebook. Knowing what to look for in general is good, but today we’re going to warn you about three specific scams happening right now that you need to avoid.
1. “SECRET SISTERS” SCAM
Here’s a fantastic deal: buy one gift for $10 and get six to 36 gifts back worth $360. It’s courtesy of something called the “secret sisters gift exchange.”
Of course, if it sounds too good to be true; it is. The full instructions make it clear that this a classic pyramid scheme. Here they are courtesy of Forbes:
- Send one gift value at least $10 to secret sister #1 below.
- Remove secret sister’s name from #1; then move secret sister #2 to that spot.
- Add your name to #2 with your info.
- Then send this info to 6 other ladies with the updated name info.
- Copy the secret sister request that I posted on my wall, to your own wall. If you cannot complete this within 1 week please notify me, as it isn’t fair to the ladies who have participated and are waiting for their own gifts to arrive. You might want to order directly from a web-based service (Amazon, or any other online shop) which saves a trip to the post office. Soon you should receive 36 gifts! What a deal, 36 gifts for giving just one! Be sure to include some information about yourself … some of your favorites. Seldom does anyone drop out because it’s so much fun to send a gift to someone you may or may not know … and of course it’s fun to receive. You should begin receiving gifts in about 2 weeks if you get your letters out to your 6 people right away.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service points out several problems with these pyramid schemes. The first is that with each level you need more people. By the time you hit the 11th level, you need the entire population of the United States participating to make it work. In other words, you aren’t likely to see any gifts, even if you send one out.
Then there’s the fact that pyramid schemes are technically illegal because they violate the federal Lottery Statue, and might get you fined or imprisoned. Many states also have laws against these kinds of schemes.
How to avoid this scam:
- Take some time to think it through and use common sense.
2. LOTTERY SCAM
If you get a message from a Facebook friend saying that they’ve won a $30,000 lottery on Facebook, watch out. That’s exactly what has happened to a woman in Nevada, and to plenty of other people around the country.
In the case of the woman from Nevada, someone on Facebook named Theresa Paddock contacted her to tell her she won the lottery. To get her money, however, she’d have to wire $150 to cover “insurance” and other fees. She did, but didn’t get her winnings. Instead, some man started reaching out to her to try and get more from her.
The same scam also happened to an Indiana woman. In the case of the Indiana woman, she wired $850, and then got asked to wire more to get an even bigger prize.
Of course, in the case of the Indiana woman, hackers had taken over a friend’s Facebook page and were using that relationship to trick her. In both cases, the victims aren’t going to see their money again.
How to avoid this scam:
- If a friend tells you they won something and you can too, call or email them and make sure you’re actually talking to them.
- Don’t send money to someone with the promise of getting money or a prize back. It’s called an “Advanced fee” scam, and it never ends well.
- Never wire money to anyone, whether it’s through Western Union, MoneyGram or another service. Once you wire money, it’s gone forever.
3. AIRLINE TICKET SCAM
If you’re in the mood for travel, you might be tempted with the news that British Airways is giving away free flights for a year. You just have to share the photo, like the page and comment to win.
It’s even coming from the “British Air” Facebook page, so it must be legitimate, right? Nope. It’s also a scam.
Sadly, this is a common scam, often using Delta. The two latest “Delta” scams tricked 65,000 and 22,000 people respectively. “Virgin Airlines” was also offering free tickets for a year if you liked its page. “Qantas” had a similar thing happen back in March. That scam got 100,000 people to share it.
How to avoid this scam:
- Your first clue this isn’t a legitimate offer is that British Airways’ real name is “British Airways.” If you see “British Air,” “British Airway” or some other variation on Facebook, then you’re looking at a fake.
- The real airline page will have a blue checkmark next to the name indicating it’s a verified profile. Just be sure to hover your mouse over the checkmark. It should pop up a little box that says “Verified Page.” If it doesn’t, then it’s part of the background image and you’re on a fake page.
3. Very few companies run contests exclusively using Facebook. If a company posts about a contest, you need to click a link to visit a contest sign-up page that includes, among other things, a mountain of fine print.
4. Even if a Facebook post has a link to a standalone contest page, still check that it’s really a contest from that company by finding the contest through the company’s home page. It could just be a more elaborate scam designed to get your information.
BONUS: ANOTHER TICKET SCAM
This isn’t the only airline ticket scam. Occasionally people will post on Facebook groups saying that they have a $200 (or another amount) voucher for an airline that they can’t use before it expires.
It’s your lucky day because they’re willing to sell it to someone for half price. Predictably, if you do send the person the money (often requested as a wire transfer), you’ll never get the voucher.