How to spot a Facebook scam

It’s easy to fall for a Facebook scam. No, it really is. They pop up promising a prize you desperately want – a new iPad, a car, long-haul flights, maybe even a house – and it’s tempting. You click through to the Facebook page, all you have to do is press a button to like and share, and that prize could be on its way to you. Except that it won’t be, because it’s a scam.

Facebook scams often look genuine, but there are usually a few telling giveaways (if you’ll pardon the pun), so here is a series of questions you can ask yourself, which should help you spot the scams and stay safe.

Are the prizes too good to be true?
High-volume, high-value prizes or a massive discount voucher? That voice in the back of your head is telling you it’s a scam, and it’s right, it’s a scam.

Are the prizes relevant?
If you’re a genuine holiday company, you probably wouldn’t run a prize promotion to win a sewing machine, would you? If the prizes don’t seem to relate to the page, it’s quite likely it’s a scam.

Are there spelling and grammar mistakes?
Anyone can miss the odd typo, but poor spelling and grammar, particularly misspelt brand names and trademarks, can be a strong indicator that it’s a scam.

Where are the terms and conditions?
Under the UK’s CAP Code, all prize promotions must have terms and conditions. If there aren’t any – if there isn’t a closing date, for instance – it’s more than likely to be a scam.

Who are the winners?
Surely a genuine promoter wants to emphasise that you, too, could be a winner, just like the people who’ve won the promotions it’s run in the past. Scroll down the suspect page and if there’s no mention of previous winners – or the previous winners could be fictional – it’s quite possible it’s a scam.

Is there a blue tick?
If there’s a blue tick next to the name of a page it means a company has verified its page with Facebook. Not all companies have it, but a blue tick is an indicator that a brand page is genuine. If it isn’t there, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

Is the website that’s listed genuine?
If there is a website in the page’s About section, the link will take you to a site that may at first glance seem quite plausible, but will have no real content. The web address might be numbers rather than letters, or it could be a variation on the name of a legitimate brand. Look carefully and you’ll realise that it’s a scam.

Who owns the page?
A fake Facebook page might look like it’s been set up by a well-known brand, but has it? To check, leave Facebook, Google the company’s real website, click on the Facebook icon – usually a small, white F on a blue square – and follow the link back to Facebook. If this takes you to a different page, it’s a scam.

How long has the page existed?
Scam pages don’t tend to last very long, because Facebook takes them down. Scroll back through a page’s timeline and if it’s less than a couple of months old, has no proper content and the posts are only about amazing sounding promotions, it’s a scam.

How does the promotion capture your data?
Genuine promoters want to collect information and opt-ins from you, which they can use for marketing purposes. That’s the way it works. If you can’t figure out how the promoter is gathering your data – and a basic Facebook like and share prize promotion isn’t going to do that – it’s a scam.

So, what should you do?
Don’t enter the promotion. Don’t enter it even if you’re unsure as to whether it’s a scam or not. Don’t share it yourself – it’s actually against Facebook rules to make sharing a condition of entry for prize promotions – and if Facebook friends share the promotion, tell them it’s a scam. Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date and never give out your bank details. If you do think your financial information has been compromised, contact your bank immediately.

There are sites like Hoax Slayer, That’s Nonsense and Snopes which aim to highlight the scams currently doing the rounds on Facebook, so checking them can be a good way of verifying that your instincts are right. In fact, just Googling a basic description of the scam will almost certainly confirm that that’s what it is.

You can report scams to Facebook by clicking the three dots next to the like, follow and share buttons on a page or in the right-hand corner of a post. You can also report them to Action Fraud via its online fraud reporting tool.

Seen a competition scam on Facebook, or perhaps you’ve fallen for one? Please tell us your story.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist, an IPM Board Director, and a SCAMbassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team.

© Prizeology and The Prizeologist Blog, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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