Scamming is a regular occurrence on platforms like Facebook, and your real friends could be fake on social media.
Social media and messaging apps are a great way to keep up with friends and family, but they can also be methods for scammers to defraud you.
A scammer might target you through messenger platforms, like Facebook Messenger. For instance, you might receive a message from a Facebook friend, right down to the name and photo appearing correct. So, you wouldn’t need to question the conversation at first.
The conversation begins with a “hey (name), how have you been?”
“Hi, I’m good. How are you?”
“I’m good. Did you hear about the money I received from the International Financial Corporation Grant?”
You might reply with a congrats, not thinking too much about the conversation switching to this topic.
But your scam radar should activate when the friend tries to get you to sign up for the program through a link they send you. At this point, this is a scam. Don’t open the link, block the person, notify Facebook about the scam, and reach out to that friend whose identity was stolen.
Keep your guard up
No matter the pitch or approach, you should always be suspicious when someone you know or think you know asks for something, often with a sense of urgency.
Another form of messaging scamming occurs when the impostor attempts to leave Facebook Messenger or the messaging app being used to avoid being tracked, and they will suggest continuing the conversation over email.
Have you heard of grandparent scams? Unfortunately, con artist exploit grandparents’ love by pretending to be grandchildren in need of emergency cash. They pose to be in some sort of timely emergency – to get out of jail, to leave a foreign country, or to pay a hospital bill. If you get suspicious, trust your gut and contact your grandchildren through the phone or email if this scam occurs.1
How to avoid impostors
You don’t have to delete Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites or unplug your computer to stay safe. Being aware of these scams and other related fraudulent attempts is half the battle.
Just say no to strangers who send you friend requests. Closely inspect emails, messages and texts for signs of phishing. And check your credit reports regularly for suspicious activity.
Resist the urge to act immediately. Scammers might pull at your heartstrings and rely on you to respond quickly before you’ve had the chance to think logically. Verify the person’s identity by asking them questions that a stranger wouldn’t be able to answer. For instance, your grandchild they are posing to be would know the recent trip the family went on or your pet’s name, etc.
Remember to never send cash, gift cards, or money transfers without verifying the identity and being 100% confident of the situation.
A fraudster sparks the beginning of a scam, but you are in control of the end result.
- AARP.org, June 29, 2022. https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2022/message-app-scam.html.