IN SHORT: A widely circulated Facebook message claims that “everybody going through a hard time” can earn rewards such as petrol and groceries by clicking an anonymous link. Don’t do it. It’s just another version of the Facebook post editing scam.
“To everybody going through a hard time, do not be left out. groceries, gas and many other rewards with Lifepoints mobile accessible through http://bit.ly/3YzE8hE and get rewarded by Lifepoints,” begins a message doing the rounds on Facebook in South Africa, Australia and elsewhere in late December 2022.
“I got mine for my second attempt. Sign up here to claim instant rewards http://bit.ly/3YzE8hE.”
It sounds too good to be true – especially in the holiday season. And that’s because it is.
The message is just another version of a now-familiar scam.
Shortened link, amateur website – from financial services company?
The shortened link in the message is the first sign that it shouldn’t be trusted. There’s no character limit on Facebook posts, as there is on Twitter. So the only reason for a link to be shortened is to hide the actual address of the website it’s linking to.
In this case, it’s an amateur-looking site, created with the free option of the GoDaddy website builder: https://moneynowopportunity.godaddysites.com.
That’s not a good look for what appears to be a financial service.
Even more dodgy is that the site’s home page immediately urges users to tap or click a button to “create account”, with little explanation of the benefits.
And a look at the message’s edit history reveals that it was first posted with completely different content.
In one instance, the original message read: “URGENT- MISSING! My uncle aged 79 drove out on Friday around 4:30 pm from #Lowood.
“We tracked his card getting gas but he doesn’t know where he’s going, he has dementia.
“He doesn’t have a phone or onStar. He hasn’t filled up anymore so he may be stopped and resting. There is a silver alert activated as well. Please help me bump this post so I get him home safely and quickly as well as our dog Rex:”
It had a photo, which has been deleted.
The message is part of what we have come to call the Facebook editing scam.
Exploiting Facebook’s edit function
Here’s how the scam works.
An innocent but attention-grabbing message is posted on a Facebook community page. Here are a few examples:
- Today is my birthday, I know I'm ugly but no one ever blessing me!! (See here.)
- Heres a picture of my grandma’s new pattern. It's simple, but She made it with all herheart. (See here, here, here, here and here.)
- This is the most recent picture of my son Andrew Bucklandon his first day of school, he left yesterday morning for school and he never came back. (See here, here and here.)
The message has no links or contact details. It includes one or more photos. But the photos are unrelated to the message, because the message is false.
The message doesn’t seem to be a scam, so it’s passed by moderators and posted on the page.
The message is interesting – it appeals to the heart, or evokes fear – so it’s shared by others. Many versions encourage sharing by asking users to “please help” or “please bump this post”.
The message is then edited. The photos are removed and the text replaced.
Motives for scams difficult to work out – but signs of a scam are clear
The resulting scam message is also false. It could offer free money from a banking service, free dental care, or an offer to buy a house.
But the scam messages will always include a link to a website, with an encouragement to click something.
Here the actual scam begins.
It’s often difficult to work out exactly how a scam works.
But most Facebook post editing scams try to get users to download an app. This is likely to install malware on their devices. The malware could then steal valuable personal information such as credit card details. It could even take over the person’s online identity.
How to protect yourself from online scams
To see the edit history of any Facebook post, click the three dots at its top right.
Find out more about the Facebook post editing scam – and how to protect yourself against it – in our extensive earlier reporting:
- Facebook users from Africa say Tennessee prisoner an active serial killer in US cities? No, weird warning a hoax
- Facebook fraudsters up to new tricks: Go2Bank scam spread by editing ordinary posts
- Girl in blue ‘missing’ across the USA? No, just another Facebook scam
- Serial killer, missing child, missing dog? Beware the new Facebook post editing scam
- ‘Download App, Sign Up and Get Rewarded’? No! Beware new Facebook post editing scam
- No, community nappy drive fake. Don’t fall for an increasingly popular Facebook scam
- Bear 1, vehicle 0? No, story of bear locked in car just step one in Facebook scammers’ new trick
- ‘I know I’m ugly’? Sad birthday message just another scam
- A thousand dollars that ‘never has to be paid back’? No, it’s a scam
Our guide to Facebook scams and how to spot them gives more advice on keeping yourself safe from online predators.
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.Publishers guide
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.
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