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How to Spot Facebook Scams and Protect Your Account

Updated: May 10


The Facebook logo against a cyber digital concept background.
Learn about the most common types of Facebook scams, how to spot them, and how to protect your account.

Facebook has been providing connections for family members, long lost friends and new acquaintances for 20 years. When used with prudence, it’s a great way to stay in touch.


But like all social media platforms, there’s a darker side where fraudsters lurk to trick unsuspecting users into a myriad of scams.


Scammers are after your identity, money, health information, contacts, email address, bank account information, and more. And they operate many scams to trick you into providing them.



Current Most Common Facebook Scams

Government Grant Scam

The government grant scam begins when the scammer compromises someone’s account and sends messages to their contacts.


If you respond to the message, the scammer soon responds with an “opportunity.” In this example, it’s a government funded grant open to anyone.



An example of the government grant scam, linking to an account made one month prior.
An example of the government grant scam, linking to an account made one month prior.

The scammer goes on to recommend a grant with another user, “Agent Smith,” as a representative. A link in this message directs to another Facebook account, set up to pose as Agent Susan Smith. It is implied she is a government agent. The account was recently created, shortly before the scammer sent out these direct messages.



When contacting “Agent Smith,” we are asked to fill out a form via direct message.
When contacting “Agent Smith,” we are asked to fill out a form via direct message.

Had we followed through with this “opportunity,” there would have been a request for bank account information to wire the funds to.



Free Giveaway Scam

In free giveaway scams, fraudsters create Facebook pages for well-known companies, individuals, and lotteries, offering “free” money or prizes in exchange for personal information or upfront payments to cover “fees.”


There’s three ways you can spot a free giveaway scam:

  • If the Facebook page is spoofed

  • If you’re asked to pay an upfront fee

  • If you’re told you won a giveaway you never entered


The scam below started as a free Texas Roadhouse gift card, but as we clicked through and filled out forms, we never saw any further Texas Roadhouse information.



The references to the “free” Texas Roadhouse gift card slowly disappear the deeper you go into these forms.
The references to the “free” Texas Roadhouse gift card slowly disappear the deeper you go into these forms.

After going through 8 webpages of questions and fake offers, we ended up at a page advertising a “free samples” subscription in exchange for health information.


Several forms followed, asking for personal information such as our email, home address, and health information. With each form, the pages continued deviating from the advertised Texas Roadhouse gift card and instead went to several questionnaires to keep us interested.



Soon after going through all the various forms, we received multiple spam emails containing offers.
Soon after going through all the various forms, we received multiple spam emails containing offers.


Identify a Facebook Scammer

Facebook scams come in many different forms. But luckily, there are common red flags that can help you recognize if you’re being scammed.


Be especially cautious if you see any of the following warning signs:[1]

  • You’re asked to send money online. If someone asks you for money – especially via payment apps, wire transfers, or gift cards – it’s most likely a scam. These payment methods are difficult to trace and are almost impossible to refund.

  • Strange grammar, spelling, or formatting in their messages. Online scammers aren’t always native English speakers. Strange errors or unnaturally phrased messages could be signs of a scam.

  • New accounts with few friends or followers. Scammers create fake social media accounts to target their victims, but if you look closely, there are usually several signs indicating that something is off. New accounts displaying low friend counts, no recent posts, or only a couple of photos are red flags.

  • Too-good-to-be true deals on Facebook Marketplace. Sellers offering high-ticket items for suspiciously low prices are probably scammers.

  • “Perfect” profile photos and few details. Fraudsters use attractive photos pulled from the internet for their profiles. If someone contacts you with a profile photo that’s almost magazine-quality, it’s likely a stolen image.

  • Unsolicited messages that create a sense of urgency. If you receive a message or call from someone you don’t know, verify the person’s identity and claims before taking any sort of action.

  • Requests for personal information, two-factor authentication codes, and other sensitive data. Fraudsters may pretend to be from a legitimate institution and request information to “secure” your account. No real organization will ask you to do this.

  • Look-alike profiles for your friends and contacts. Online scammers create fake profiles pretending to be people you know so that you’re more likely to comply with their requests. If you get a random Facebook message from an acquaintance that you weren’t expecting, proceed with caution.

  • Links to strange websites. Scammers try to direct you to websites that request your personal information. But anything you provide will go straight to the scammer.



Protect Your Facebook Account

Scammers who try to trick people into sharing personal information, passwords, or credit card numbers typically do so via fraudulent emails, messages, or websites that might appear legitimate, such as a bank, email provider, or social media platform.


First, slow down. Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency or threaten you with losing your account. Take time to ask questions and think it through.


Second, spot check. Scammers often mention a problem to encourage you to act. Do your research to double check details before clicking links or downloading files. Does what they’re telling you make sense?


And lastly, don’t send anything. Scammers often pretend to be from a familiar organization, and they may use employee photos they stole from the internet to convince you. No reputable organization will demand payment on the spot.



Keep Your Facebook Account Secure

Don’t click suspicious links. If you get a suspicious email, text, or social media message claiming to be from Facebook, don't click any links or attachments. First, check your Facebook settings to see if the notice actually came from Facebook.


Don’t download files or software coming from people you don’t know. Use caution when installing browser extensions and 3rd party apps, particularly when they offer functionality that sounds too good to be true or require you to login with your social media credentials before even using them.


Don’t answer messages that ask for your password, Social Security number, or financial information. Report these messages instead.


Strengthen your online security. Enable two-factor authentication, never reuse your password across multiple sites, and use trusted antivirus software that you keep up to date.


When in doubt and you believe someone has gained access to your Facebook account, you can visit Facebook’s Hacked Wizard Page to take steps to regain access to your account.[2]



References

  1. “The 11 Latest Facebook Scams You Didn’t Know About…” Aura. 5 October 2023

  2. “Avoiding Scams on Facebook” Facebook. 12 September 2023

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