The issue of cybersecurity is becoming more and more significant as days go by. The social media network Facebook is not left out. Billions of users are targeted by scammers on a regular basis. Fraudsters create various hoaxes and propagate them via email, Messenger, or Facebook’s News Feed.
Facebook scams aim to spread false stories, infect users’ devices with malware, steal personal information, and cheat people of their money.
What Are the Most Dangerous Facebook Scams?
Facebook scams come in many forms. These scams emerged as soon as the social network achieved considerable popularity. They can be grouped into four categories based on scammers’ intentions:
- Scams that are used to steal users’ personal information (for example, giveaways and lottery scams).
- Scams that aim at distributing malware.
- Scams that trick users into sending money to criminals (for example, shopping scams and fake fundraisers).
If you fall prey to these social media scams, not only will your account be at risk, but your PC or any other device you use to log in to Facebook might also be in danger. Change your password and scan your device with a reliable antivirus program, such as Auslogics Anti-Malware.
Here is a list of the most dangerous Facebook scams to watch out for:
- Facebook scams that spread malware and steal private information
Cybercriminals promote malicious links on News Feeds and even Messenger. They share provocative videos and provide a link along with a phrase like, “Exclusive video”, “My private video”, “Is this you in this video?”, and so on.
Most times, scammers promote these links with the accounts of users who have already fallen victim. The video links might even contain the full name of the victim and their profile picture. Once you click the link, you get redirected to a malicious website that could be made to look like a popular video streaming website, such as YouTube. You are then prompted to install an update or download a plugin that will allow you to continue viewing the video. However, in doing so, you throw your device open to malware. Your Facebook account also gets hacked and is used to spread malware to other users.
If you clicked on a suspicious link from a friend and even installed an add-on through the link, uninstall the add-on, scan your device with an antimalware program, and change the password of your Facebook account.
- Facebook lottery scams
Scammers have been known to reach users via email or even impersonate Mark Zuckerberg. These cybercriminals expect that people will get excited when they see a message that says they won a lottery. It’s easy for people to forget that before they can be eligible for a win, they first have to apply for a competition. And that is exactly what scammers take advantage of.
Most of these scams are spread via email. The letterheads look genuine so you think they are actually from Facebook. You will be required to contact an agent to whom you will pay some amount of money before you can claim your prize. Though this seems too obvious, many people still fall prey due to the excitement of winning a lottery and loads of cash they could thereby claim.
Note that Facebook does not host any lotteries. So if you get an email telling you that you’re a lucky winner, waste no time to delete it.
In April 2018, a hoax that has been dubbed the Mark Zuckerberg scam was very popular on the social network. People were tricked into believing that they won a lottery.
In fact, the New York Times reported that about 205 Facebook accounts belonged to scammers impersonating Mark Zuckerberg. They made users believe that they had received a personal message from the founder of Facebook. The users were then asked to transfer some money or/and send 200 dollars in iTunes gift cards.
- Facebook ads that promote fake online stores
Scammers target people that are attracted by promo prices. They take advantage of Facebook’s ad services to advertise fake online stores. People that fall victim get low-quality products or do not receive any item at all and won’t get a refund.
Some of the most common scams market good clothes at low prices. Others sell computers or other gadgets. Some users reported ordering from fake stores such as hxxp://laptopmall.co.uk/ or hxxp://iepcsale.com/ and say they never got the product they paid for.
Therefore, you need to be on the alert. If you come across any add that offers products at very good prices, do well to check the retailer’s details and make sure they can be trusted. Read customer reviews, look for the company online and check their credibility.
- Facebook scams that spread misleading information
Scams that try to make users believe that Facebook has changed its policy and terms of service are very popular. Many people have received a message, even more than once, that mentions something about Facebook becoming a paid service. This scam has been rampant since 2012. However, it is obvious that people do not have to pay before they can continue using the social network. But still, users keep getting private messages such as this one:
“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.”
Another such scam came up again around the year 2015. Users were encouraged to post a certain message on their status if they did not wish Facebook to use their private information. The message goes like this:
“As of January 4th, 2015 at 5 pm Central standard time. I do NOT give Facebook, or any entities associated with Facebook, permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308-11 308-103 and Rome statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish this statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE. You MUST copy and paste to make this your status. I will leave a comment so it will be easier to copy and paste!!!”
Messages like these are being spread in various languages, including French, German, Lithuanian, Spanish, and many others, to users all over the world. It’s yet uncertain why scammers spread these false messages.
How to Avoid Facebook Scams
The variety of scams on Facebook, coupled with the fact that criminals keep introducing new scams, make it quite difficult to eliminate these activities on the social network.
Regardless, you can help yourself and your loved ones by keeping a watchful eye and avoiding being too fast in clicking or sharing content that people seem to be spreading rampantly. If you come across a flooded news feed, take your time and look up the information before you dive in.
Here’s what you have to do to avoid scams on Facebook:
- Beware of unexpected emails that prompt you to reset your password. Rather, log into Facebook directly and change your password. Do not click any links or buttons in an email. Such emails lead to phishing websites that can harvest your private information.
- Stay away from lotteries that may offer mouth-watering prizes, such as holiday vouchers, cash prizes, iPhones, and so on. If you must participate in any contest, make sure that it is sponsored by a trusted/authorized company/page. But to be on the safe side, it is not advised to take part in any such offerings, whether or not they seem genuine. Also, ignore any messages that claim that you have won a lottery on Facebook.
- Do not react to suspicious posts that tagged you. If you are tagged or sent a video or image that contains a link, do not click on it. The link might redirect you to a harmful site that will hack your account and afterward use it to continue spreading malicious links.
- If you find posts or ads that request a donation for homeless children, victims of natural disasters, and so on, before you go ahead and contribute, look up the information and make sure that the issue actually exists. If not, you might be funding the creators of a Facebook scam while you think that your money is used for helping people.
- Do not accept friend requests from unknown people. They might not have good intentions. They could be criminals who are capable of stealing your personal information and go on to use your details to perform an online crime or even rob you in real life.
- Do not be in a haste to buy from unknown e-shops. Cybercriminals use Facebook ads to market fake online shops. They could post pictures of great-looking products in order to trick unsuspecting people into placing an order. But you might get goods that are much inferior to what you ordered. Or you might never receive your order, and neither will you get a refund. Therefore, before you make a purchase, check whether the seller is genuine. Comments on forums can help.
- If you get a friend request from someone you know, especially if you already have the person on your friends list, don’t be in a haste to accept the request. Call the person and confirm whether the request is really from them. Facebook scammers can create fake accounts and impersonate your friends.
How to Stay Safe on Facebook
Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for someone to rip off. What platform creates a better opportunity for that than a social media network that is accessed by billions of people worldwide?
Interesting fact: Did you know that Facebook serves 2.37 billion users?
Therefore, to stay safe on Facebook, you have to be constantly on high alert to recognize various scams and not fall prey. There will always be malicious links, messages, posts, and other hoaxes, and there’s really not much that can be done to prevent their existence. Thus, the most important step in keeping protected is to avoid all suspicious content.
However, if you suspect that your account has been compromised, you’ll have to act fast and check the state of the devices you use for accessing Facebook.
If you’ve been hacked and your account is used to spread malicious posts and private messages to your friends to bait them, the first thing you have to do is change the password of your Facebook account and set two-factor authentication. Then, remove all untrusted third-party apps that are linked to your account. Safety comes first.
Tip: Whether or not you have been hacked, it is good practice to change your Facebook password regularly. Also, don’t use the same password for all your accounts (for instance, don’t use the same password for Gmail, Instagram, etc.). Every account you own is safer with a unique password.
Finally, run a full scan of all your devices with a strong anti-malware program.
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Once you’ve completed a thorough scan of all your devices to remove hidden malware that tries to steal your personal information, keep checking your activity log on Facebook to see if any unauthorized devices have access to your account. Set your account security to send you alerts when there are any unrecognized logins.
You can never be too careful while using Facebook. Scammers are always developing new methods for defrauding people. Therefore, you have to be more vigilant while using the social media network. You should neither fall easy prey nor allow cybercriminals to use your account to mislead people on your friends list. Change your Facebook password regularly, monitor your user activity and account settings, and never click suspicious links.