Thursday, September 20, 2018

Common Facebook Scams & How to Avoid Them

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.

My Basic Rules for Safe Facebook Interactions
1. I do NOT accept friend requests from people I 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. I 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 videos 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. Telling them to leave you alone will not send them packing. Block the account and move on.

Things to Watch Out For
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. 

NOTE: This is called cloning. Someone has stolen public information and opened a fake account. This is not the same as being hacked. If this happens to you, there's no need to reset your password. You need to report the account, but that's all you have to do.

2. The update from a friend that states Facebook has changed the algorithm and is limiting who can see their account to 25 people and if you want to see what they post please comment below. There are so many things wrong with this I almost don’t know where to start.

  • a) Facebook is ALWAYS changing their algorithm, but not this way.
  • b) Facebook is cracking down on false news. Anyone who posts an update that's false will find that update severely limited. If an account continues to post false news it can eventually be suspended.
  • c) Finally, Facebook is also cracking down on what they call comment baiting. Facebook came up with this term and their definition is "anything that manipulates readers into reacting to the post." Facebook is looking for keywords that are often used in comment baiting, such as:
    • Please comment
    • Share if you agree
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. You don't want your name attached to a post that suddenly changes from "pray for this situation" to some kind of unsavory update.

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.

5. The private message that warns if we accept a friend request from ______ we will be hacked. We are also asked to forward this message to all our friends to keep them from the same horrible fate. Again, several things wrong with this.

  • a) our account cannot be hacked just by accepting a friend request. To be hacked, we really need to click on a spammy link. 
  • b) the people named are real people—innocent people—whose names have been used and are now faced with closing accounts and rebuilding.

NOTE: To check anything you're not sure about, visit and do a quick search. 

Clues a Facebook Account is Suspicious
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:

  • Block the offending account.
  • 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. I have gotten several of those fake military accounts requesting friends. I message the account and tell them I am checkig with my friends at the Pentagon before I accept, and I never hear from them again. Google+ gets them, too.

  2. I get friend requests from strangers on a regular basis. More often than not there's no info on their "about" page, only pics of themselves (yes, often in a uniform), and no friends. I delete the friend request and mark it as spam, thereby blocking them from sending me a friend request again.

  3. Edie, I know this is late and you've probably moved on, but Snopes isn't always accurate. It is difficult to find an accurate site. I'm wondering isn't there a or some such title that was better? I've used something else.

  4. Thanks, Edie! I'm going to share this.