Facebook may not pay as much tax in the UK as some think it should do. It may have allowed Cambridge Analytica to access the data of millions of its users without their express permission. And it may be a source of infinite distraction when you’re trying to get a piece of work done. But it does not – and I repeat not – run lotteries.
Why might you think Facebook does run lotteries? Because scammers are known to use Facebook to message people telling them they’ve won a big cash prize in the Facebook lottery. The way it usually works is you receive a message telling you your name is on a list of winners. The message may look legitimate, because it appears to come from a genuine Facebook friend whom you would normally trust, but that’s because the scammers have taken over someone else’s account by hijacking or cloning it.
To claim your prize, you are instructed to click on a link. This will take you to what appears to be a Facebook Lottery website. It will probably look quite realistic, with a version of the Facebook logo and photos of past winners, but it’s fake.
Your name will be on the winners’ list, sure enough, but to take delivery of the cash you’ll have to part with your name and other details. By this I mean your banking information and Facebook login and password, which will potentially enable the scammers to hack into your finances and Facebook account. You’ll almost certainly also be asked to make a payment as well.
This particular ruse has a name. It’s called the advance fee scam and the payment will be dressed up either as a transaction charge, it might supposedly be to cover the administrative cost of processing your claim, or it could be described as an insurance premium.
If you do make an upfront payment – and of course I advise you not to in no uncertain terms – you may well be asked for a further payment, and then perhaps another payment. Each one may not be particularly significant, but they will mount up and tie you in to the scam. You won’t see that money again and you won’t see the big cash prize you’ve theoretically won either.
Sometimes – and I say sometimes because there are many variants on this scam – you will be told that the amount you’re being asked to pay is directly proportional to the size of the lump sum you’ve won, so the bigger the upfront payment, the bigger the prize. Obviously, though, this is just another strategy designed to hook you in and persuade you to hand over even more money.
I say there are many variants on this scam and there are, which makes it difficult to give very precise instructions for avoiding it, but that’s why my message is that there are no Facebook lotteries. They don’t exist and Facebook doesn’t give away big cash prizes like this, so if you see anything purporting to be a Facebook lottery please steer well clear of it, because it’s a scam.
Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and a National Trading Standards Scams Team Scambassador.