In previous posts, we’ve taken a look at some classic email scams and different ways to spot a scam on Twitter, so now it’s time to cover scams that routinely hit a specific site many of us use every day: Facebook. The popularity of this social media site cannot be understated, especially now that people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on the site. The bad news is that scams do happen on Facebook, and the prize in question is control over your account or access to your personal details. But the good news is that many of the warning signs of a scam on Facebook are similar to those of other common online scams. Here are three scenarios that should set off your internal alarms:
1. Sites asking you to login in to your Facebook account anywhere other than www.facebook.com.
Just like the classic “phishing” scams that land in your email inbox, sites that look like the Facebook homepage but have any address that isn’t www.facebook.com are probably run by scammers looking to take over your account by stealing your email and password. If you find yourself on a Facebook look-alike site, you may have clicked an image from an email or a link that made you think you mistakenly logged out. To protect your data, take time to verify that you are using the correct URL when you see the Facebook sign-in page each and every time you log in. Also, Facebook just launched a new feature that lets you use a secure connection (https://) whenever possible. This has the added benefit of protecting your password and other data when browsing on open wi-fi networks, so make sure to tweak your settings accordingly (under Account > Account Settings > Account Security).
2. Pleas for help from a friend who’s suddenly “trapped” in a foreign country.
While your Facebook account may include classmates you haven’t spoken with in over a decade, chances are you’re connected to a few people with whom you’re much closer. That tight bond is actually the best way to disable this Facebook scam! If a Facebook friend starts asking for money and something doesn’t seem quite right, beware: it could be an imposter who has hijacked your friend’s account! The best way to sidestep this scam? Ask them the kind of question that can’t be answered by a search engine so you can verify that you’re chatting with your friend and not an imposter – a personal anecdote works best for this. Really, any time anybody asks for cash to be transferred online, you have every right to demand some proof that any funds you send will go to the right person and not an imposter trying to extort cash from you, just like the Reddit user in the example above did.
3. Posts that contain language or content that’s out-of-character for someone you know.
Thanks to an easy way to share photos, videos, personal thoughts and links from around the Web, sometimes you just never know what you’re going to find in your Facebook feed. As Jared Newman over at PCWorld put it: Did your old college drinking buddy just write "OMG Justin Bieber trying to flirt" on his Facebook wall? For that matter, is "OMG" out of character for your grown friends and family? Occasionally, a curiosity-tempting photo, video or link can be malware sent from a scammer hoping to access your account to retrieve personal information. This message may repost itself on your account (and your friends’ feeds) if you click on it. So when in doubt, go ahead and message your friend directly to ask if they really meant to share the content in question.
As long as new technology develops, gets popular, and becomes a fixture in our daily lives, scammers will always find ways to thieve valuable personal details from users. Have you seen any scams on Facebook people should be aware of? Let the world know in a comment!