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BBB Alert: Scammers impersonate your Facebook friends

BBB Alert: Scammers impersonate your Facebook friends

BBB Alert: Scammers impersonate your Facebook friends

October 14, 2021

Rockford, IL – October 12, 2021 – Did you get a message or request from a Facebook friend? It could be fake. The Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers that scammers are setting up fake Facebook “friend” webpages to steal your money and personal information. Statista.com estimated 16% of all Facebook accounts in 2020 were fake or duplicates. “Your Facebook ‘friend’ could be a scammer impersonating your real friend,” says Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau. “This latest scam has strong potential for money loss, identity theft and future problems.”
   
Plenty of people connected to the internet catch up with friends on social media or randomly surf the web. Unfortunately, so do scammers. Horton says, “Con artists are taking advantage of social networking sites, earning victims’ trust by pretending to be someone the victim already knows and sending out a message or two with COVID-19 news, a fundraising request, or perhaps a great deal on a product.” In the most recently reported period, Statista.com reported that Facebook removed almost 1.7 billion fake accounts, up from 1.5 billion fake accounts in the corresponding quarter in 2020.
 

How the Scam Works

While scrolling through Facebook, you see a message pop up in Facebook Messenger. It’s your friend, family member, or neighbor.
 
“At least it ’looks’ like them because the profile picture matches,” says Horton. “But it is easy for scammers to find and copy someone’s photograph online and insert it, with personal information such as hobbies, education and ‘likes’ they gleaned online, into a newly created fake web page pretending to belong to your Facebook friend. It looks quite legitimate.”
From here, the conversation in Facebook Messenger goes one of two ways. In one version, your “friend” tells you about the most awesome deal they found online, or they want you to view a video. All you must do is click on a link, share the good news or simply respond to the message. In some cases, perhaps you want to take part in the offer and are ready to pay a processing fee and tax.
 
“Stop and think,” cautions Horton, “would your real friend pass along this type of information?”
In another version, the “friend” claims to be raising money for a charity to support emergency personnel, a food bank, or some other organization that has really been hit hard by the pandemic. They'll push for a donation and yet, it sounds suspicious. But the message appears to be coming from someone you know and trust. Or is it?

Horton notes a third version is circulating where the “friend” believes their account has been hacked and asks you to friend them on a new request. “Turns out, they were not hacked at all.” Additionally he says, “The profile is publicly visible and copied by a cyber thief who then creates a new profile and is now sending out new friend requests to a bogus account that looks like it's your friend.”
BBB advises everyone before responding to such a request, check that the Facebook profile image is from who it says it is. Or, go the extra step and call, text, or email the friend to see if they really did send it to you.
“Also be wary of a second friend request from someone with whom you are already connected,” says Horton. “The second profile may be an imposter trying to access your data and your friends list.”
BBB advises social media users to be careful about what they share online and to check the privacy settings on the account. Keep up on the latest scams by subscribing to BBB Scam Alerts emails.

How to Protect Yourself from Facebook Scams

  • Be wary of online messages. A person may be trustworthy in real life, but sometimes friends share things without checking them out first, and online accounts can be hacked. Take a closer look before sharing, applying, or donating. Go to Give.org to verify a charity.
  • Do some research. Go to BBB.org/scamtracker to see if the online website that is selling masks (or whatever product the friend is mentioning) is truly legitimate. If you can’t find a website, it’s most likely a fake. If you can find a website, look for contact information, as no contact info is a red flag and a tell-tale sign of a scam.
  • Press for details. Ask strategic questions without giving any personal information to confirm you are actually talking to someone you know. If your “friend” can’t give you straight answers, leave the conversation, block them and then change your Facebook settings as well as your password.
  • Remove personal details from your profile: Don’t share information like phone number or home address on social media accounts.
  • Check your Friends list. If you've received a friend request from someone you think is already your friend, check your friends list to see if this could be a duplicate, fake account. Someone could be impersonating your friend.
  • Report suspicious activity to Facebook. You can report scammers to Facebook to help protect your real friends and family from a scam, plus you can report impersonations. Do a “Privacy Checkup” by clicking on the question mark at the top of your Facebook home page.
You can reduce the risk of having your profile impersonated by tightening up your privacy settings and hiding your Facebook Friends list.

For More Information

See Give.org’s Giving Guidance & Tips.
Report scams on BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your experience can help others to spot a scam.
 
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ABOUT BBB®: BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois is a nonprofit organization that has served both consumers and trustworthy businesses for over 95 years and is a part of the IABBB. We provide an extensive free database for checking business ratings and reviews before you buy, and protect consumers from scams. We educate and connect customers to businesses they can trust.
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