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November 10, 2020

Privacy Tip of the Week: Be Alert for Facebook Scams

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More than a quarter of the world population uses Facebook. The tech giant is the biggest social media platform in the world, and one of the most visited websites of all time. Anyone who uses the platform probably isn’t surprised that Facebook is also one of the websites most rampant with scams. If you use the platform, stay safe by keeping a look out for some of these common Facebook scams:

  • Facebook phishing
  • Fake links
  • Spoof accounts
  • False sales
  • How to stay safe

Facebook Phishing

Phishing is a type of scam in which the victim receives a message (usually in the form of an email) which looks as though it’s from an official source, but really isn’t. For example, you may receive an email from Facebook requesting that you follow a link and sign into your account to confirm your details or something similar. The link will take you to a page that looks like Facebook but, by signing in, you merely allow the scammer behind the curtain to harvest your account information which they can use to sign into your real Facebook account. 

Phishing is especially dangerous because these emails are specifically tailored to look very real. However, there are a few signs that they might not be above board. First, check the address the email was sent from; this might be enough to tell you it isn’t real. Second, read the email closely; too many unusual spelling mistakes might indicate a phishing attempt. Third, think critically about the request; if it seems unusual, don’t comply. Fourth, if you do actually click a link in an email, check the URL it takes you to; if it’s anything but the website you expect, leave the site immediately. 

Finally, it’s always a good idea to avoid clicking links in emails in general unless you’re expecting the email and can confirm its safety. For example, if an email from “Facebook” wants you to sign in and take action on your account, navigate to the site from your search bar instead so you know you’re visiting the real thing. This prevents data harvesting and also protects you from malware hidden in links.

Fake Links

Almost every Facebook user has come across a fake link at some point or another. In many cases, they’re obvious. Someone you haven’t spoken to since high school sends you a message out of the blue offering you a great deal on Ray Bans if you would just be obliging and click the link! Or someone posts a status claiming they earned a huge amount of money by signing up with “obviouslyascam.com.”

If clicked, these Facebook scams may do one of a few things. For example, they may simply be a vessel to spread malware; by clicking on the link, your own Facebook account spams the message to your own friends in an attempt to get them to click it as well. Some links may take you to another page that looks like a real website (YouTube for example) and ask you to sign in, with the goal of harvesting your information. And still some may take you to a legitimate looking survey, with the end goal of collecting as many details about you as possible.

The problem with fake links on Facebook is that, although some look obviously fake, many don’t. A person who receives a YouTube video from a friend might click on it unthinkingly, and many have. There are a few ways to stay safe, although none are foolproof. For example, you can ask the sender of a direct message if they meant to send the video, although that might get tedious after a while. And if you accidentally click on a link that takes you to a page requiring a login, check its URL to see if it’s the website you expect; if not, exit the site immediately. And, if you realize you’ve clicked a malicious link after the fact, immediately change your Facebook password and let your Facebook friends know that they shouldn’t click any links they receive from you.

Spoof Accounts

Sometimes, a spammer will create a Facebook account that looks like someone else’s. They’ll copy the real person’s profile picture, details, and even their last few statuses if possible. These accounts seem to belong to someone you know and may even interact with you in a normal way if you accept their friend request. However, before long, they may start asking for money or sending you other odd requests, many of which are designed to tug at your heartstrings or make you think that they’re in trouble. Although this is a belated and somewhat apparent sign that this account is fake, the first sign typically comes when you receive a friend request from a person you’re already friends with. 

If you receive a friend request from an account you believe to be a spoof, don’t accept it right away. Instead, send the friend a message to their first account to see. If you can confirm that the second account is a spoof account, report it to Facebook. Protect your own account from spoofing by making sure your account is private.

False Sales

Facebook has developed a marketplace function over the last few years. Similar to websites like Kijiji, eBay, and even Craigslist, Facebook’s marketplace allows users to put items up for sale in their local area. While the feature is helpful in many cases, it also allows scammers to take advantage. For example, a scammer might put up an object for sale, request payment for it online, then never deliver. If you use the marketplace feature, always be sure you can inspect the item in person before buying it. In addition, although these situations are rare, it can be unsafe to meet with a person from Facebook so always request meeting in a safe, public place, bring someone along with you if you can’t, or tell someone of your whereabouts at the very least.

Along with marketplace Facebook scams, some scammers may also try to sell users things like tickets to concerts or plays, for example. In these instances, they create a fake event, invite users who then may show an interest in the event (making it look legit), then share a link to a “ticket vendor” for the event. If you buy a ticket, which is likely to be extremely overpriced to begin with, you’re likely never to receive what you paid for. Avoid this issue by going directly to a real ticket vendor (rather than following a Facebook link). If possible, find an official event page as well.

How to Stay Safe from Facebook Scams

Facebook scams aren’t always easy to detect or avoid. If you happen to come across the ones listed above, use the tips for each to protect yourself. A few other ways of staying safe include:

  • Deactivating Your Facebook Account: This move may seem drastic, but if you aren’t overly attached to your Facebook account, deactivating it altogether is the surest way of protecting yourself from scams.
  • Strengthening Security: Making your account private is a great way to prevent yourself from becoming victim to a spoofing attack. Using a strong password and other forms of identification can also protect your account from hackers.
  • Think Critically: Being suspicious of links, messages, accounts, and events on Facebook may seem like overkill. However, always being aware of where scams can come from and regarding everything on Facebook with a critical eye is a great way of staying safe.

Although you’re your own best line of defence on Facebook, you can protect yourself online in general with a VPN. HotBot VPN encrypts your data and anonymizes your activity to keep you safe at all times. Learn more on our website or download our app from the Play Store today.

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