What online site lets crooks, hucksters, and scammers potentially reach more than a billion people with a single post? You guessed it, Facebook. Right now, three specific Facebook scams are rampant. If my News Feed is any indication, normally “smart” people are falling for them. Don’t be one of those people.
1. "SECRET SISTERS" HOLIDAY GIFT SCAM
Here's a fantastic deal: Buy a $10 holiday gift and send it to one person. In return, you'll get up to 36 gifts back. Who wouldn't want to get 36 gifts, especially if they're these must-have tech gifts?
This generous offer is courtesy of something called the "secret sisters gift exchange." There's also a similar post going around focused on a book exchange for kids, but the basic premise is the same.
The instructions clearly detail a classic two-deep pyramid scheme. You begin by sending a gift to the first secret sister. Then, move the second secret sister to the first position, send the instructions to six other ladies, and on and on. At the end, you’re promised gifts in about two weeks. Well, how lucky are you!
Stop right there. With each level, you need more people to keep it going. By the time you hit the 11th level, you need the entire population of the United States participating to make it work. Even at the 4th or 5th level, the odds of getting even one gift back after you send one are very slim.
Then there's the fact that pyramid schemes are illegal and might get you fined or imprisoned. The federal government and many states also have laws against these kinds of schemes.
How to avoid this scam:
Keep in mind that anyone offering a huge return on any investment is probably trying to fool you.
You don’t get something for nothing. Of course, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
2. LOTTERY SCAM
If you get a message from a Facebook friend saying that they've won a $30,000 lottery on Facebook, watch out. That's exactly what happened to a woman in Nevada, and to plenty of other people around the country.
In the case of the woman from Nevada, someone on Facebook named Theresa Paddock contacted her to tell her she won the lottery. To get her money, however, she'd have to wire $150 to cover "insurance" and other fees. She did, but didn't get her winnings. Instead, an unknown man started reaching out to her to try and get more money from her.
The same scam also happened to an Indiana woman. In the case of the Indiana woman, she wired $850, and then got asked to wire more to get an even bigger prize. Of course, in her case hackers had taken over a friend's Facebook page and were using that relationship to trick her. In both cases, the victims aren't going to see their money again.
How to avoid this scam:
If a friend tells you they won something and you can too, call or email them and make sure you're actually talking to them.
Don't send money to someone with the promise of getting money or a prize back. It's called an "Advanced fee" scam, and it never ends well.
Never wire money to anyone, whether it's through Western Union, MoneyGram or another service. Once you wire money, it's gone forever.
Watch out for other versions of the lottery scam targeting Powerball and Mega Millions players, like this one.
3. AIRLINE TICKET SCAM
If you're in the mood for travel, you might be tempted with the news that British Airways is giving away free flights for a year. You just have to share the photo, like the page and comment to win. It's even coming from the "British Air" Facebook page, so it must be legitimate, right? Nope. It's also a scam.
Sadly, this is a common scam, often using Delta. The two latest "Delta" scams tricked 65,000 and 22,000 people respectively. "Virgin Airlines" was also offering free tickets for a year if you liked its page. "Qantas" had a similar thing happen back in March. That scam got 100,000 people to share it.
How to avoid this scam:
Your first clue this isn't a legitimate offer is that British Airways' real name is "British Airways." If you see "British Air," "British Airway" or some other variation on Facebook, you're looking at a fake.
The real airline page will have a blue checkmark next to the name indicating it's a verified profile. You can see an example over at my Facebook page. Just be sure to hover your mouse over the checkmark. It should pop up a little box that says "Verified Page." If it doesn't, then it's part of the background image and you're on a fake page.
Very few companies run contests exclusively using Facebook. If a company posts about a contest, you usually need to click a link to visit a contest sign-up page, like my annual Great Giveaway where I'm giving away trips, tablets, gift cards and more.
Even if a Facebook post has a link to a standalone contest page, still check that it's really a contest from that company by finding the contest through the company's home page. It could just be a more elaborate scam designed to get your information.
Bonus: Another ticket scam
The scam above isn't the only airline ticket scam. Occasionally people will post on Facebook groups saying that they have a $200 (or another amount) voucher for an airline that they can't use before it expires. It's your lucky day because they're willing to sell it to someone for half price!
Of course, if you do send the person the money (often requested as a wire transfer), you'll never get the voucher.
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