The Better Business Bureau is warning Facebook users of a “Facebook impersonation scam with a charity-focused twist.” According to the Bureau, scammers are “earning victims’ trust by pretending to be someone they already know.”
In its warning, the Bureau explains how the scam works and how to protect yourself from scammers.
How scam works:
You are scrolling through Facebook when a message pops up in Facebook Messenger. It’s your friend, family member, or neighbor. You can tell by their photo.
From here, the scam goes one of two ways. In one version, your “friend” tells you about a charity that’s giving out grants, and you qualify for the program. All you have to do is pay a smaller amount to cover processing fees and taxation. In another version, the “friend” claims to be raising money for a charity and asks you to make a donation. In either case, you’d normally be suspicious of an offer of free money or an unknown charity. But the message is coming from someone you know and trust. Or is it?
In both cases, scammers are hijacking a person’s Facebook profile image and sending these messages to all their friends. The charity doesn’t exist, and if you pay, you will have lost your money.
How to Protect Yourself from Grant Scams
Be wary of online messages. A person may be trustworthy in real life, but online accounts can be hacked, and sometimes friends share things without checking them out first. Take a closer look before sharing, applying, or donating.
Do some research. Ask for the charity’s name and look it up. If you can’t find a website, it’s most likely a fake. If you can find a website, look for contact information (no contact info is a red flag).
Press for details. Ask questions to confirm you are actually talking to someone you know. Then, find out who runs the grant, where it’s from, how it works, and why you qualify. If your “friend” can’t give you straight answers, beware.
Report suspicious activity to Facebook. You can report scammers to Facebook to help protect your real friends and family from a scam. You can reduce the risk of having your profile impersonated by tightening up your privacy settings and hiding your Friends list. Do a “Privacy Checkup” by clicking on the question mark at the top of your Facebook home page.
For More Information
The Bureau invites victims of a grant or charity scam on Facebook, to report their experience in the BBB.org/ScamTracker.