7 Common Facebook Scams

• in categories: advice • by: Michelle Balestrat

It’s a trusted space for keeping in touch with friends from all over the globe, but Facebook isn’t necessarily the secure space you might expect.

Image: The Facebook login page.

It’s important to remember that while it might seem like your own private island, Facebook is filled with all of the same dangers as the rest of the Internet (and even some of its own!)

Take these examples: five of your friends have ‘liked’ the free airline deal. A co-worker tagged you in a post for discount designer shoes. Your old classmate invited you to a personality quiz. You simply need to find out who’s been looking at your profile. These scenarios can be convincing, tempting and perhaps confusing, all at once. “Why did my friends like the deal? Why did she tag me?”

Social proof abounds on the site, making it a happy hunting ground for scammers of all descriptions. At times, it can even be difficult to distinguish a scam from the real deal.

Casual Facebook users might wonder why all of this matters – why is securing an account on this particular site so important? As we increasingly use Facebook authentication to create accounts at new sites: shopping, education, web apps – Facebook account information like passwords and email addresses are becoming highly sought-after credentials.

With the information about you in the average Facebook account, it’s even possible to pull off outright identity theft. From this, we know that Facebook security is serious business.

Here’s 7 common scams to keep an eye out for:

##1) Free or ridiculously cheap consumer goods.#

Let’s be real – you’re probably never going to get an iPad or iPhone for free, no matter what you read in the ad column of your Newsfeed. You might, however, click and give out oodles of personal data in a series of surveys, just for the mere chance of winning one.

Even worse, you might simply get swindled into giving your info and email address to scammers without any reward at all. The moral of the story? Don’t take the bait.

2) “Change your Facebook Colour” (and other profile mods)

These cons work by claiming to allow you to change otherwise-uneditable aspects of your profile, such as Facebook’s iconic blue hue.

Facebook is a far cry from the days of Myspace, where HTML/CSS based profile modifications were easy and encouraged. Facebook’s colour schemes aren’t able to be changed by users, with or without an app.

In 2014, over 10,000 Facebook users fell for a ‘Change Your Profile Colour’ app that promised to deck out the iconic blue interface in a number of colour swatches. Instead, it lead users to a phishing site.

The closest you may get is changing your own Timeline’s colour scheme while logged in, but none of your friends will be able to see the changes. What’s more likely, though, is that you’ll allow a shady app’s developers to have access to your account information. We’d call that a rather large risk for very little payoff. Steer clear.

3) “See Who’s Been Viewing Your Profile”#

A little heads-up: it’s simply not possible for any app or browser extension to offer you this information, since Facebook itself doesn’t collect this data.

However, just like the ‘Profile Colour Changers’, apps like these abound and can be a way for criminals to get a hold of masses of private Facebook user data. Just remember: it’s never possible.

4) Strange Friend Requests

A number of bizarre scams are surfacing involving duplicate accounts of a scam’s target person, designed to infiltrate networks of co-workers and friends on Facebook.

Such duplicate accounts completely imitate the original, right down to the profile image and cover photo. Friend requests and messages are then sent out to the original person’s friend list in the hopes that they may bite.

Invariably, some will mistake the phony account for their friend’s real profile and accept the friend request. This provides further ‘social proof’ by way of mutual friends, and so the scam continues. Messages from the phony account to the target’s friends may ask for money, passwords, or other private data.

Keep a lookout for strange behaviour or multiple profiles involving you or your friends. If you uncover a duplicate profile, let your social network know – misinformation and assumptions are what scams feed on.

5) Free credits for Facebook games#

Candy Crush and Farmville tragics: you’re never going to get a free lunch. In-app purchases are usually not transferrable between different accounts, and there’s no way to get paid add-ons for free.

As always, you will likely just hand out information to spammers, scammers and other miscreants as you waste time filling out surveys, being bombarded by ads, or getting stung by malware-infested clickbait. Don’t. Do. It.

6) Gift vouchers, airline and clothing deals#

While legitimate companies use social media for all sorts of promotions, giveaways and competitions, phony imitiations are also a reality.

Airline scams pop up often on Facebook, usually by way of shared posts by friends. ‘Too-good-to-be-true’ claims are a key tactic, with the posts claiming “Likes and Shares” will win you a free return trip with a popular airline.

7) “Help me, I need money!”

You’re browsing Facebook when a friend suddenly messages you in distress. It comes out of the blue; you might not have spoken for quite some time. “I’m stranded in London” the message reads, “I have no money, please help me out – I need some cash via Moneygram”.

While your friend might be in a legitimate overseas emergency, scams like these are well-known, so it pays to make sure. What’s more likely is that your friend has been the victim of an account compromise, which has allowed the scammers to use her identity to quickly gain trust (and money) through her social network.

If you’ve got another means of contacting your friend – phone or email, for example – get in touch. If she’s clueless about the mysterious message, let her know she’ll need to change her password and app permission settings, STAT.

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