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If you have a Facebook account, then you’re a target for scammers who use social media to prowl for their next victims. The platform is well aware of this unsavory element’s presence in its midst, and it’s warning users to watch out for common Facebook frauds like:
- Lottery scams: Lottery scammers build Facebook pages that appear to be from a credible source, like a government agency or even Facebook itself. They inform their targets that they’ve won a big cash prize, but they have to pay an upfront fee to collect it.
- Access token theft: Scammers pose as legitimate apps requesting access to your Facebook account or page.
- Marketplace scams: Unlike eligible items purchased on Marketplace using checkout on Facebook, P2P local-pickup transactions aren’t covered by Purchase Protection. Many victims have reported losing money to scams that exploit this exception.
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These are just a few of the many swindles plaguing the world’s largest social media network — but even if you don’t have an account, you can still become a target, so stay safe no matter where you venture online.
Here’s a look at the most common non-Facebook scams and how to protect yourself.
Cash Advance App Scams
Taking out high-interest, short-term payday loans has always been risky because a small loan can quickly spiral into unpayable debt. But the advent of cash advance apps like Earnin, Dave, Chime and Brigit have opened the door to scammers who use cleverly disguised imposter applications that prey on people when they can least afford to take a financial hit.
You’ll have to give up critical personal data like your bank account information to get a legitimate payday loan, so be careful when shopping around.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), you should never trust any payday lending app that claims not to charge any fees or that asks you to pay fees upfront, which is illegal and a sure sign of a scam.
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P2P Payment App Scams
Social P2P payment apps like Venmo and Zelle have made it easy to split dinner checks and send money to friends and family — but online thieves want to intercept every dollar from those transactions.
According to Capital One and the American Bankers Association, some scammers use P2P payment apps to pose as legitimate sellers offering a good deal. For example, they may claim that they’re trying to recover only the face value they paid for in-demand and expensive tickets to concerts or sporting events that they can no longer attend. The target pays and gets nothing in return. In other cases, the thief might pose as a rep from your financial institution and ask you to send money to “the bank” to confirm that your account is still active.
Never use a P2P payment app to send money to someone you don’t know and trust, never trust someone who pressures you to send money quickly without confirming their identity and never reveal personal or financial information.
Charity scams are nothing new, but crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter have made it much easier for scammers to solicit money from well-intentioned people. Scammers purport to seek donations for assistance in caring for a sick child, helping wounded veterans, disaster relief and other sympathetic causes that make decent people dig deep.
There is, of course, no sick child — the scammer takes the money and runs.
Digital security firm Okta says to scour for information on the organizer before you chip in and perform a reverse image search on any photos affiliated with the account.
People looking for love can fall victim to romance scams both on and off Facebook. According to the FTC, romance scammers often approach their marks on dating apps or sites like Instagram or Google Hangouts — and they typically follow the same M.O.
The scammer makes a connection, builds trust, messages frequently and makes lofty promises. There’s always a reason why they can’t meet in person — usually because of some noble endeavor like military service, serving as a doctor in an international organization, secret government work or toiling for big money on an oil rig.
Soon after, the scammer requests money for a plane ticket, to pay for a visa or some similar request — but only until they can unlock an account that was somehow frozen while they were overseas. The first request for money is followed by more and more until there’s nothing left to take.
The FTC recommends searching the person’s name and organization they claim to work for — if you can’t find them, expect them to say that their work is classified or otherwise kept secret for security reasons. Involve your family and friends to get a second opinion and perform a reverse image search of the person’s picture. Most importantly, slow things down in the beginning of the relationship — romance scammers always profess love early on.
Like romance scams, job scams may pop up on Facebook, but they also target victims on other social sites, job boards and even TV and radio ads, according to the FTC. They often purport to be work-from-home positions like reshipping and reselling, but fake nanny, caregiver and virtual assistant jobs are common, too.
They often solicit private data like your Social Security number and birthday as part of the application process and require an upfront payment for a certification, training or start-up kit that ends up being worthless.
The FTC advises that you always perform an online search to verify the company’s credentials, never pay for the promise of a job and never agree to send your own money after receiving a check from an employer.
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