Facebook hasn’t had the best 2018 and it didn’t have a great 2017 either. There have been data breaches, concerns over the spread of news and profit warnings, all of which have served to create an exodus of sorts, with more younger people now turning their backs on the social network and looking for alternatives.
One of the issues that has had the biggest impact on individual users is the rise in Facebook scams. This is something that Facebook isn’t entirely at fault for, as scammers see their site as the perfect platform to pilfer the pockets of unsuspecting users. So if you want to avoid scams you can’t rely on Facebook to protect you—the onus is on you to be vigilant and aware.
Take a look at these common Facebook scams in 2018 to make sure you don’t fall victim to them yourself.
Facebook Ad Scams
The Facebook ads platform is the holy grail of advertising for businesses who want to engage directly with specific demographics, but it’s just as useful for scammers and fraudsters.
Who They Target
These scams exploit the connectivity of the ad platform to engage directly with the most vulnerable users. As an advertiser you can tell Facebook to show your ads to people of a specific age, in a specific region and with specific likes. It allows advertisers to target the people most likely to buy their product, but it also allows scammers to target people most likely to fall for their scams.
They know, for instance, that someone who is older, single and lives in a rural area is more prone to falling for scams than a young, savvy city-dweller. They can also assume that someone who likes pages relating to basic computing and internet how-to guides is not very savvy and therefore more vulnerable.
How They Work
There are many variations of this scam, but one of the most common is to target people who are in debt and are therefore more vulnerable and desperate. They promise them easy ways to make money in exchange for a subscription or a one-off payment.
These include binary options and “winning strategies”; make money from home guides; and more.
But it’s all nonsense. Think about it: if that person really could make so much money, why would they go to the trouble of selling their strategy to others for such a seemingly small sum? It’s a con, and once you give your financial details for a “free trial” you may find that you are inadvertently agreeing to a contract that bills you every month.
These scams can be disturbing and they seem to be on the increase in 2018. They prey on peoples’ fear and loneliness, and they work more often than you would think.
They work by sending out “personalized” messages to Facebook users, claiming that they know something and that they will tell everyone if the victim doesn’t pay them money. These scams often claim that they have been watching them through a webcam while they accessed a porn site, that they have proof they were accessing sites they shouldn’t have, or that they have compromising pictures of them.
Who They Target
These Facebook scams target most demographics. They usually focus on young girls when claiming to have compromising pictures, but everyone can be a target. They send messages randomly, simply adding the person’s name at the top and then demanding that they pay them in Bitcoins, otherwise they will release the information they have.
These scams work when they tell a story that rings true for the victim. Like many scams, they rely on being in the right place at the right time. Can you imagine how a young girl will feel if they she has just taken pictures of herself to send to her boyfriend and she gets this message the next day or week?
How They Work
All payments are demanded through Bitcoin, with the amount specific and the address supplied. They give all details in the email so that they simply need to send out thousands of these emails and then wait for the money to be paid.
These scams prey on lonely men and women. They are more common on dating sites, but they are also becoming increasingly common on Facebook.
Who They Target
Anyone who is middle aged and widowed could be a target for these scams. Scammers assume that someone in the US or Canada that is of a certain age and single has a lot of money. As far as US standards go, they may not have much money at all, but to a scammer living in a third-world country, even a few hundred bucks will seem like a lot.
How They Work
The scammers pretend to be a handsome young man or attractive young women. They either claim to be a high-earning professional (more common when targeting women) or a low earning female (more common when targeting men).
In nearly all cases they will claim to be someone who travels a lot, works overseas or is in the military, as it makes their excuses easier.
They will form a relationship, get to know the person and then start asking for money, making excuses, telling sob stories and generally doing whatever it takes. They always use fake images and names and this is actually the easiest way to figure them out.
Simply take the image they give you and run it though Google Image Search. If it’s fake, you will see multiple results and will find the original source. But just because nothing comes up doesn’t mean it’s fake, they could have taken the image from private Facebook or Instagram profile.
Other Facebook Scams
- Charities: Fake charities are setup to get donations.
- Stolen Profiles: Friends get their accounts hacked by scammers who use them to lull you into a scam.
- Need Money: A friend gets their account hacked and a message is sent to all contacts saying they are in hospital in a foreign country and need money sent instantly. We have discussed these in our Online Scam and Email Scam guides.
- Clickbait: You are lured into clicking an article that directs you to a phishing site.
How to Avoid Facebook Scams
You will always be targeted on Facebook. It doesn’t matter who you are and there is no way to stop it. But you can make these scams easier to ignore and you can avoid being the victim of them by following these steps:
- Make sure you have strict privacy settings and never post anything public.
- Do not pay attention to “filtered messages” unless it’s just an old friend trying to catch-up.
- Do not fall for promises of “easy money”, even if a Facebook friend insists it worked for them.
- Do not pay money or hand over card details unless you are 100% sure you are dealing with a reputable company. Anyone can use Facebook ads, not just legitimate companies.
It is also important to understand how Facebook works. Inexperienced users will see adverts for things they have been shopping for and be amazed at the coincidence, not understanding that those ads are being shown because they were shopping for those things. And then you have the people who see Facebook Ads that use their surname or their first name and give more credence to them, even though they are all automatically generated and thousands are made every day.
The system was made for advertisers to use and Facebook to profit from. Everything else, from friendships to socializing and more, is secondary. Always keep that in mind, always ask questions and don’t make costly assumptions.