Facebook is a great social media site to share pictures, messages, and more with family and friends. However, just like with anything else on the Internet, it’s important to stay alert and be smart when it comes to the people you interact with and the information you believe. All Facebook users are susceptible to scams. But if you keep your eye out, it’s easy to avoid these threats and keep your Facebook account enjoyable and danger-free.
What Does a Facebook Scam Look Like?
A Facebook scam can come in many different forms. Sometimes scammers will use messages to reach their victims and feed them false information. Other times pop up ads or posts are the scammer’s method of choice. In short, a Facebook scam is any situation where someone attempts to take advantage of you to their own gain—whether that be for money, information, or something else.
Because not all scams look alike, it can be difficult to distinguish what is and isn’t safe online. Some scams are obvious; others are subtle and reach victims through family or friends. However, there are two common ways in which scammers can catch unsuspecting victims, and that is through clickable links and requests for information. To stay safe, don’t click any links from untrustworthy sources and never give out personal information just because some person or company has asked. These are ways in which people get caught up in scams without even knowing it.
Three of the Most Common Facebook Scams
Facebook has become notorious for its scams due to the way it’s structured as both a social media site and a messaging site. If you’re on Facebook, here are three popular scams to keep your eye out for:
1. Prize Giveaways
This scam is fairly straightforward: you’ll receive a message saying that you won a prize! All you have to do is enter your personal information, your address or bank information, and maybe click a link or two, and your new iPhone will be on its way.
Don’t remember entering a giveaway? That’s because it’s a scam. These can be tempting, but don’t believe scams that follow a script like this. In the end, as nice as it would be to get a free iPhone, it’s just too good to be true—and it isn’t.
2. Facebook Messenger Scam
In addition to being a social media site, Facebook also has its own messaging service: Facebook Messenger. This gives scammers on Facebook another way to reach unsuspecting users. Facebook Messenger scams involve sending messages in mass amounts to friends or other users—messages with malicious links or software. Once the recipient clicks, the malware is downloaded onto their computer. These scams prey on users’ curiosity; after all, if someone sends you a link, it’s easy enough to want to click and see what it is. Try and fight the temptation to click and instead, just delete the message and block the user.
3. Stranger in Need
These types of scams are hard to ignore because they rely on the victim’s empathy for another person. If a recently-added friend starts to message you sharing their life story and struggles, be wary. If they ask for money shortly after, recognize that you are likely being scammed. Although as human beings, we often want to help others, think carefully in these situations. If you met someone on the street and they immediately hit you up for cash, would you comply? If the answer is no, then apply the same logic here. Don’t do anything online you wouldn’t do in person.
Avoiding Scams and Staying Safe
Now that you know what to look out for, what should you do when you do encounter a Facebook scam? Quite simply, cut off contact. If you receive a suspicious message, don’t respond in any way. If possible, unfriend the contact who sent you the message. You don’t want to give scammers any attention or possibility for future messages; cut them off at the first source.
Sometimes a scammer will contact you via what appears to be a close friend or contact. These situations are more difficult, as they require your own discernment in the situation. If a friend messages you anything out of the ordinary, or if they send you an odd link, it’s imperative that you don’t click on the link or interact with the message. Your friend’s account could be hacked, meaning that the message isn’t from them and is unsafe. Scammers who reach victims via hacking count on the fact that you won’t question something a friend sent you. Prove them wrong: if a “friend” sends you something you don’t trust, contact them through another app or messaging service to ask if they actually sent the message you received.
If you encounter a group or contest that asks you to enter personal information, don’t do it. Research any contests and groups you see on Facebook first before entering or giving them any personal data.
Remember to practice basic Internet safety on Facebook, as this can help you in a scamming situation too. The less a scammer knows about you, the better. Never send private information to someone else via Facebook and don’t post about anything that you aren’t comfortable with everyone seeing.