From snake-oil salesmen and pool-hall hustlers to Nigerian princes and Spanish prisoners, scams were happening long before the Internet. Unfortunately, the Internet has only made things worse.
Modern scammers can reach billions of potential victims with a single message. And their scams are getting better every day. If you aren’t paying attention, you could fall for a scam and not ever realize it.
One of the easiest places to encounter online scams is Facebook. Facebook encourages sharing, which means certain scams can travel far and wide. These aren’t harmless scams either. Some of them can install viruses that take over your account or steal your money. Yikes!
Here are four popular scams that should set off your warning bells as soon as you see them:
1. Free giveaways
The easiest scam to fall for on Facebook is a free giveaway. You’ll see everything from gift cards to free tablets, laptops and smartphones. Who doesn’t like free? Just one catch. You have to give the “company” your information. Or you have to download a program to qualify.
This is a variation on a classic survey scam. These trick users into giving out their information or downloading malicious files onto their computers. With the information you enter, a scammer has a foothold into stealing your identity. Entering your cellphone number often leads to bogus premium charges appearing on your wireless bill.
It’s true that some companies do give away free stuff through Facebook. When they do, however, it’s promoted on that company’s official Facebook page. If you check the company’s page or website and don’t see the giveaway, steer clear. Even if it’s real, only enter through the company’s official page. And only if it’s a company you trust. Scammers like to set up fake sites and pages that mimic the real thing.
2. Viral videos
Almost as exciting as free gadgets is seeing the latest viral video. However, many supposedly salacious celebrity “videos” posted on Facebook aren’t videos at all. When you click to watch, you’ll be asked to update your video player first. You’ll even be provided with the updated program file. How helpful! Of course, the program is really a virus. Plus, it will automatically share the scam with all of your friends. This one is easy to avoid. Type the video’s title into Google. You should see a link to it on YouTube. If the video isn’t on YouTube or a legitimate news site, it’s a scam.