Monday, June 6, 2016

Facebook Scams, What to Avoid & Steps to Take to Stay Safe

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Social media is big business these days. And like anything that involves large amounts of money, there are lots of unscrupulous people trying to cash in. 

While there is no reason to be afraid, we do need to educate ourselves. It’s important that we’re wise in our social media interactions. Today I’m going to share some of the most common scams and some you may not be as aware of.

Basic Rules for Safe Facebook Interactions
1. Do NOT accept friend requests from people you don’t know. We cannot rely on others to have vetted those they accept as friends. We all make mistakes—we may think we know someone or misread a name. So I NEVER look at how many friends we have in common to decide whether or not to accept a stranger’s friend request. The only exception is if I talk to some I trust—in person—and they recommend someone. Otherwise I don’t accept friend requests from people I don’t know.  

2. Do NOT click on strange, or unknown, links—especially if they are designed to play on your sympathies. For example, there is a whole sick industry built around sharing video of abused animals. Occasionally one of those sickos will post a disturbing picture asking for those who see it to click and help end abuse. Don’t fall for this scam.

3. Do NOT answer direct messages that you think are suspect. This will encourage a flurry of follow up messages. This will not send them packing.

Things to Watch Out For
Watch our for friend requests from someone you
may already be friends with.
1. Friend requests from someone you may already be friends with. It’s happened to all of us. We’ve gotten a friend request and think, “Wow! How is it I’m not already friends with this person? I need to remedy that.” If I then accept the friend request without double-checking, then shame on me. I’ve just set myself up as an easy spam target. Anytime we something unusual on Facebook, we need to check first before clicking. Also, when we do accept a friend request from a bogus account, we’ll often be inundated with direct messages that are asking for money (I just got mugged in Mexico and need air fare home) or just plain creepy.

2. The update from a friend that states they have too many friends (or don’t think anyone is paying attention or something similar) and they are watching to see who reposts this update and will pare down their friend list from that. There are so many things wrong with this I almost don’t know where to start.
a) As writers, we’re on social media to be found—so the idea that we have too many friends is just wrong.
b) This is a blatant attempt at emotional blackmail and manipulation.
c) So often these posts originate with spammers who are looking for Facebook Likes and Shares for unsavory reasons.

3. The ill, dying or missing child post. Take a minute and check out the validity of the update you’re about to share. Chances are high that it’s a hoax, composed to play on your sympathies and harvest your name.

4. The repost this because (fill-in-the-blank) millionaire or company is giving away money. Again, a spammy hoax. Please do not clog our newsfeeds with inaccurate reposts.

Clues a Facebook Account is Suspicious
Watch out for accounts that don't have a cover pic.
1. There isn’t a cover picture. A cover picture is the big pic that stretches across the entire page. NOTE: If you have a legitimate account and don’t have a cover pic, it’s time to get one because not having one makes you look like a spammer.

2. There are very few pictures in the newsfeed and they are repeated.

3. The account was opened in 2008 or 2009. For some reason, almost all the spam requests I get state the account has been in effect since 08 or 09. I don’t have any idea how they falsify this, but they do.

4. Almost all the friends listed are women. I don’t know how this works if you’re a man, but as a woman, this makes me highly suspicious. If they’re almost all females, I know they’re trolling.

5. Fake military personnel accounts. For some reasons there is a plethora of fake military accounts. At first I thought I was seeing these because I wrote for military families. But the more people I talk to, the more common I find this. I’m immediately suspicious of any account that has a man in uniform. These are especially suspicious because our military men and women are encouraged—for safety’s sake—to keep a low or no profile on social media. So an account that advertises that they are members of the military is immediately suspect.

What to do with suspect accounts or messages:
1. Block the offending account.
2. Report the offending account.

Truthfully, I could on and on and on with this post. But I’m hoping you’ve got the idea here. The bottom line is this, we’re all responsible for our own behavior on Facebook. I cannot legitimately blame someone else for putting me at risk. My decisions are what affect my vulnerability on social media.

Social media is a tool. It can be used for good or for bad. It enables us to connect with people in ways that have never before been possible in the history of the world. But it also means we have to use some common sense.

What precautions and warnings would you add? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!



  1. Edie, I am so glad you wrote this. I have encountered each one of these attempts to scam. The one I fell for was other authors "friend" requests to be my friend. It mainly came from their author page. The Facebook page was usually a man with only 4 post (same pictures) and women friends. It is difficult and time consuming to check request, but it is worth it. You give great detail on how to spot a bogus Facebook page. Thanks again.

  2. Good information! I have always felt terrible for not reposting things friends send and ask to repost. Hurt a friend's feelings or prevent a scam or virus from infecting my friend list? I will stick with the wise decision of not putting something that can possibly be a scam out there. Hopefully, our friends will understand. Thank you for the reminder and for the information. I did not realize the military aspect. Good post!

  3. Very good information. This also applies to Google+. I have gotten quite a few scammers that I have had to block or delete. They all claim to be military working in the middle east. It's always the same story: Widowed, one child left behind in the states, staying with family. they are coming home soon, and looking for a good, honest woman. It's all B.S. I have told a couple of them, before I blocked them, that Google+ is not a dating site. Sick of scammers! Can't be too careful!

  4. thanks you, Edie, for great words of wisdom! better to play it safe and err on the side of caution!!

  5. Thanks, Edie! I often check out the friends we have in common to decide whether to friend a new person. I have a handful of people's names that I look for. If we have those in common, I will connect with them. I thought I was being careful. Like you said, we all want our names out there and it's too easy to be deceived.

  6. Great information! I'm always getting friend request from military people, or people from foreign countries, etc. I have no clue about. I usually delete their request. I never share any post unless it is something I like from a friend, nothing that is suspect.

  7. Edie, As always, you give good information. As a writer, I often get "friend" requests from readers--they seem valid, have "about" info and their timelines seem okay--but I don't know them personally. Do you see this as an exception to "don't accept friends if you don't personally know them?"

  8. Thanks,Edie. I will be more cautious in the future because of this information.

  9. Good job, Edie. Another safeguard I use is if the "about" box has no info, I'm not going any further and will delete the request. Elva Cobb Martin