BBB Scam Alert: Fake Friends on Facebook | Business

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People connected to the internet use it for a variety of purposes, often catching up with their friends on social media or randomly surfing the web.

Unfortunately, your social media friend might not be what he seems. Scammers gain the trust of victims by taking advantage of social media sites and often pretend to be someone the victim already knows. They can send a message or two with news of COVID-19, a fundraising request, or maybe a good deal on a product.

How the scam works

While you are scrolling through Facebook, a message appears in Facebook Messenger from your friend, family member, or neighbor. At least it “looks like” them because the profile picture and name match. From there, the conversation goes two ways. In one version, your “friend” tells you about a great deal they found online or a funny video they want you to watch, often including a link to the deal or video. All they want is for you to select the link, share the news, or just reply to their post. They may ask you to share the offer with other friends or to post it on your page. With their recommendation, you can decide to follow the link or participate in the deal. Stop and think: Would this person usually convey this type of information, or is it a little unusual?

In another version, the “friend” claims to raise money for a charity to support emergency personnel, a food bank or other organization hard hit by the pandemic. They may ask you to donate to an unknown organization for a cause they usually don’t support. The message appears to be from someone you know and trust, so you might be more inclined to donate to the charity without doing more.

Additionally, your “friend” may send you a message indicating that they believe their account has been hacked and asking you to accept their friend request for their new account. They may not have been hacked and the new account may be fake. This often happens when your friend’s publicly visible profile is used by a cyber thief who copies their information. After creating a new account, the scammer sends out new friend requests, disguising himself as someone you know.

BBB recommends that social media users verify that the Facebook post or request is from who it appears to be before interacting with a Facebook friend’s links. Take it one step further and call, text, or email the friend to see if they really sent the message.

How to protect yourself from Facebook scams

Beware of online messages. A person can be trusted in real life, but sometimes friends share things without verifying them first, and online accounts can be hacked. Take a closer look before you share, apply, or donate. Go to give.org to verify the authenticity of a charity before making any contributions.

Do some research

Go to BBB.org/ScamTracker to see if the online marketplace the message is promoting is legitimate and check the online reviews. If you can’t find any reviews or information on a website, it is most likely a fake. Look for website contact details, including a physical address and other methods of communication other than email. If there is no contact information, it is an alarm signal, it may not be legitimate.

Ask strategic questions without giving out personal information to confirm that you are talking to someone you know. If your “friend” can’t give you clear answers or doesn’t know something they should, exit the conversation, block them, and then change your Facebook settings and password.

If you receive a friend request from someone you think is already your friend, check your Friends List to see if it’s a duplicate account. If so, contact that person and verify that they have created a new account or intend to send you a new request.

Report suspicious activity to Facebook

You can report scammers to Facebook to protect your real friends and family from scams, including identity theft. You can reduce the risk of crooks masquerading as your profile by tightening your privacy settings and hiding your friends list. Do a “privacy check” by clicking on the question mark at the top of your Facebook home page.

For other Facebook related warnings, check out the BBB articles on Sharing Your Vaccination Card, Sharing Your Senior Photo, and Facebook Quizzes on BBB.org/News.

To learn more about BBB’s 10 Recommended Steps to Avoid Scams, visit BBB.org/AvoidScams. If you’ve been scammed, report your experience to the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others identify and avoid a scam.

Katie Galan is BBB’s Regional Director, serving Heart of Texas. She can be reached at 844-222-4968 or [email protected]


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