IN SHORT: Seemingly innocent Facebook posts on local community pages are approved by moderators and shared by members. The scammers then edit the posts – with potentially devastating financial consequences for people in the community.
“To anyone going through a hard time Survey Junky has been relaunched.They’re depositing $1000 sign up bonus for opening a new account.”
That’s the start of a message posted on local Facebook groups across the world. And it’s a scam.
It goes on: “Refer a friend and you both get a qualifying direct deposit through the link >> [link redacted for safety] I’m so grateful to have gotten mine. Find out if you still qualify to get $1000 sign up bonus >> [link redacted]”
A similar version reads: “Wow a big thank you to the person who posted about Survey Junkie last week. Just got my first payout. $1380 in just 1 week. It’s real guys, if you are interested open your account here [link redacted] The surveys are super easy and short! I'm so excited I really needed this, I have been jobless for 4 months now.”
But why is it a scam? It’s simple.
The now-familiar Facebook post editing scam
Investigating online scams usually takes Africa Check hours of work. But here all we had to do was look at the edit history of the scam messages. (To see a Facebook post’s edit history, click the three dots at top right.)
This one, for example. On 20 September 2022, the post read: “Let's Make this dude famous he's cutting catalytic converters in Little Rock.” It included two photos, and was posted on the Facebook group page “Online Yard Sale, Little Rock, AR”, based in Little Rock, the capital of the US state of Arkansas.
On 26 September, the post was edited and the two photos deleted. It now has the scam message: “To anyone going through a hard time Survey Junky has been relaunched ...”
Interesting messages with an encouragement to share
Here’s how it works. A scammer posts an innocent-seeming message, possibly from a hacked Facebook account, on a public community group page. The post encourages people to share.
The message is interesting, so users are likely to share it. It’s also simple enough to be passed by moderators. Then, when it’s been accepted on the page and shared by community members, it’s edited and replaced with the scam message.
This editing technique also means more people on the group page will think the message is legit – not a scam.
Here are a few of the initial messages used in this particular scam:
- Hi all, I’m desperately trying to find the owner of this sweet girl I picked up about half an hour ago along side road near the park. She has been taken to the vets but does not have a chip. Please help bump this post [italics ours] so she can be reunited with her owner asap.
- This is my Dad , Gerald He turns 104 today .Any chance I can muster 208 shares(double his age) written congratulations from Facebook ? He will be amazed and baffled in equal measure Thank you
- This beautiful girl was picked up by good samaritans and brought to the clinic early this morning. She was hit by a vehicle, She is approx 6-9 months old. She’s in critical condition but showing signs of recovery. We are doing everything we can for her at the moment share so that her owners can find out where she is.
The takeout? Don’t share messages by people you don’t know. And don’t trust any offers posted on Facebook pages that aren’t run by the companies making the offers.
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.