Has one of your Facebook friends or family members ever sent you a private message requesting money or your social security member? If you’ve gotten one, well, chances are, he/she is likely not really your friend or relative.
Facebook’s mission is to give users “the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Unfortunately, the social network has also given scammers the ability to become closer to their targets: Facebook users.
Scamming individuals for money and/or personal information is something you’ve heard of—and unfortunately, many have experienced—but recently the means of doing so has changed. Within the past month, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker warns that con artists are “using Facebook Messenger to promote phony grants.”
Here’s how the scam works
You receive a congratulatory message from someone you appear to know stating you have won a sum of money—but to claim it, you need to send money or a gift card to receive the money, according to the BBB. In reality, the message isn’t from someone you know at all. Instead, a scammer hacks into an account of a close Facebook friend, or creates a new, similar account. The ultimate goal is for you to trust the individual asking for money or information and give in to the trap.
In some cases, the scammer doesn’t pretend to be someone within your family tree. According to the New York Times, there have been numerous reports of “Mark Zuckerbergs”, the founder of the social media platform, reaching out to obtain money. In this case, the scam continued for several months and the victim was drained of over $1,000.
Other variations of this scam don’t have money as a goal, but information. Users are requested to provide personal information, such as a social security number or address, according to the BBB.
How to avoid this scam
How can you continue to use Facebook without being contacted by cyber scammers? An article written by Facebook outlines a few helpful tips, including keeping login information private, only accepting friend requests from people you know and using the platform’s extra security features.
Most notably, though, be a skeptical social media consumer and protect your personal data just as you would offline.
Guest Blogger: Morgan Grunow
Morgan is a Communications Intern at TDS Telecom and a junior at UW-Madison studying journalism.