Facebook is littered with all different types of scams, and it’s important to know how to spot them before we fall victim. In this article, we describe some common Facebook scams that start with a Facebook friend request, and how you can spot them before it’s too late.
5. The “looking for love” romancer
Romance scams on Facebook will typically start with a friend request from an apparent stranger.
Romance scams are always popular, since they specifically prey on the lonely, desperate and vulnerable. Dating websites have evolved to help protect would-be victims from romance scammers, but Facebook isn’t a dating website, and as such doesn’t have the same protective measures. Romance scams typically involve the scammer beginning and developing an online relationship with a victim, and then attempting to trick the victim into sending money over the Internet.
Because Facebook isn’t a dating website and doesn’t have the protective measures that good dating websites employ, scammers often turn to the social networking platform in the search for potential victims. And this can often start with a simple friend request.
Adding strangers on Facebook is never recommended, but users should be especially cautious if newly added “friends” appear to be an extremely attractive member of the opposite sex who seem eager to start an online relationship.
Scammers will avoid meeting victims at all costs. As such, one of the obvious red flags is an unwillingness to meet up outside of the Internet. Another red flag is when a scammer will inevitably request the victim send them money. The scammer may claim the need the money to travel to the victim, or they need it for an unforeseen emergency.
4 . The “friend in crisis” scam
The friend in crisis scam will usually start after accepting a friend request from a cloned Facebook account. i.e. a scammer has created a duplicate account of someone you know and has send you a friend request. It can also start if one of your Facebook friends gets their account compromised.
The crook, posing as your friend, claims they are in an emergency and needs money urgently. For example they may claim they are abroad and have had their wallet stolen. They urge you to send them money on the promise that you’ll be quickly reimbursed. The scammer will often request the money be sent through a wire transfer service like Western Union.
Any money the victim sends is then stolen by the scammer. To avoid such scams, always be especially sceptical if someone urges you to send them money over the Internet, and make sure you always speak to them in person or over the phone to verify it is actually them you’re talking to. If the person asking for money refuses to talk to you over the phone or verify their identity in a way that satisfies you, they’re almost certainly a scammer.
3. Identity theft
The identity theft scam on Facebook can start with a friend request from a stranger or a friend request from a cloned Facebook account that appears to be from a friend.
Assuming your Facebook account is “friends only” – which it definitely should be – those on the outside looking in shouldn’t be able to see very much about you; this protects you from the likes of identity thieves looking to glean information from your profile so they can pretend to be you elsewhere.
Identity thieves will also know that many are cavalier about their privacy and who they accept as friends. As such, such thieves will send out large amounts of friend requests to see who accepts. When someone accepts, the identity thief has been let into the “inner circle” and can scour that persons account. They can gather seemingly innocuous information about that person such as their birthday, the city where they live, the names of friends and family; they can then use that information to commit identity fraud.
Avoiding this is simple; lock down your Facebook account and never accept strangers. Those who engage in this type of scam will do so using a dummy Facebook account, so if the account that sent the friend request has little or no mutual friends and a limited history on their account, then this is a big red flag.
If the scammer is using a cloned account that appears to be from a friend, always make sure you verify any suspicious friend requests (for example, you are already friends and the request appears to be from a second account) by verifying they are legitimate with your friends first.
2. Malware or phishing scammers
This scam can start with a friend request from a stranger or a friend request from a cloned Facebook account.
If you accept a stranger on Facebook and they begin posting links to external websites – either through chat or onto their timelines that subsequently appear on your newsfeed – then there is a good chance that such a scammer is posting links to either malicious websites.
Such websites may try and install malware onto your computer, or they may be designed to steal your login credentials by disguising themselves as a login page of a service you use.
Obviously the best way to avoid such scams is to avoid adding strangers, or friends acting suspiciously (see point 4, cloning scams.) But be especially careful if anyone you’ve just added on Facebook seems keen to get you to click on a link that takes you outside of Facebook.
1. The lottery scam
The lottery scam can begin with a friend request from either a cloned account that appears to be from a friend, or from someone identifying themselves as working on behalf of a lottery.
If after adding a friend request you’re told you’ve won a lottery or a large, expensive prize, then you’re probably encountering the lottery scam, which is a type of advance fee fraud.
This is where a victim is told they’ve won a large prize, but when claiming the prize, the victim is told to first pay a much smaller “advance” fee to obtain it. The victim is promised that their larger prize will more than cover the advance fee. But the large prize doesn’t exist, and the victim is left out of pocket.
In this case, a Facebook account you’ve just accepted may tell you you’ve won a lottery or sweepstake and provide instructions on how to claim the prize. When the victim follows the instructions, they are told to provide an advance fee.
If this happens, simply know that you should never pay a fee to obtain a prize, and you can’t win a lottery you didn’t enter. Simply ignore the instructions and remove the Facebook account you accepted a friend request from.
Remember, always be cautious when accepting friends on Facebook, even if they appear to have come from someone you know. Watch out for the common red flags we discuss above, and never give out any personal information, money or click any links if you’re unsure.