Guide: Facebook scams and how to spot them

You’ve seen a job ad, a loan offer or a giveaway on Facebook, but you’re not sure if it’s the real deal. How can you tell? Here are some of the signs of a Facebook scam.

Scams offering jobs, grants, loans, giveaways and easy ways to make money are common on Facebook. They lure sometimes desperate people with a way out of financial difficulty – but may end up costing them instead. 

How can you avoid being conned? Here are some tips to help you spot Facebook scams.

Badly written posts

Poor writing, spelling and grammar is a good sign of a scam. 

Mistakes happen, but a post that tells you to send a message “via send message button bellow” or says you can win something “withing 10 seconds” is probably not legit.

Also suspicious are posts written IN ALL CAPS with lots of EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!! 

Posts that ask for money

Scams that directly ask for money are the easiest to spot. This is common in job scams, where to apply for the job you have to pay an “application” or “registration” fee. Some giveaway scams that offer, say, free gas cylinders ask for a “booking” or “delivery” fee.

The fee is relatively small, usually about US$3 to $5. But the scammers can make a large sum if enough people are fooled. 

Payment is usually required through a mobile money transfer app, like M-Pesa. The scam normally tells people to send the money to an anonymous number – not to the company’s legitimate bank account.

Being asked to pay upfront is a clear sign that something is fishy. Job offers and giveaways from legitimate companies don’t come with a fee.

Posts that link to an unrelated website

If a scam that uses the name of a real company links to a website, you can be sure it won’t be the company’s legitimate website. It will be a site set up by the scammers.

Job scams often link to Google Forms, a free service where pages are quick and easy to set up but look official. Google Forms is also popular with scams that steal people’s personal information.

Then there are scams that make false offers to lure users to websites that earn advertising revenue for their owners.

Say you’re browsing Facebook and see a post advertising flash sales at an appliance store. Interested, you click on the link. But instead of going to the store’s official website, it takes you to a basic-looking website, usually run by a free or easily set up content management system such as WordPress or Webflow

These websites are filled with colourful banners and pop-up adverts that website owners use to earn money from views and clicks. 

The tactic is also used in job scams.

Whenever you click a link on Facebook, be sure to check whether the URL or web address matches the company named in the post. 

Posts that tell you to like, share, comment and inbox

A recent Facebook post claimed that global technology firm Nokia was giving away new phones to students. To win, users had to post the letter ‘N’ in the comments.

Other “competition” posts tell users to quickly spell out a certain word in the comments before anyone else.

These are examples of engagement bait – posts that ask people to interact by liking, commenting on or sharing. The more people do this, the greater the Facebook page’s reach. 

Some genuine competitions will ask Facebook users to like and share. But be wary of strange requests to comment and send inbox messages – especially when you are asked to share personal information. 

What can you do?

You’ve come across a Facebook post that you’re pretty sure is a scam. What can you do? Importantly, don’t hit share! Facebook scams thrive on reach so, instead of spreading the dodgy post further, just keep scrolling. 

Report the suspected scam to Facebook by clicking on the top right of the post. Click “report post” and choose the option that best describes the issue. Facebook will review it and remove anything that violates its community standards. 

You can also send the link to Africa Check, in a tweet or email, for investigation. 

Trust your instincts. If a post looks fishy, it’s probably a scam. And remember the golden rule – if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

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