BBB is warning Facebook users that sharing a certain kind of attention-grabbing post might put their friends at risk of falling victim to a scam.
How the scam works
You are scrolling through Facebook, and a gut-wrenching post about an injured, lost pet or a missing child grabs your attention. You want to help, so you share the post on your own profile.
After you share the post, a scammer changes the original post to a deceptive rental ad or sometimes to a link pointing to a survey that “guarantees” a cash prize. Now, your friends think you have recommended that content. These bait-and-switch ads aim to either get a deposit for a rental property before the user gets a chance to see the home- or get your personal information, which could lead to identity theft.
This scheme has many variations, but the commonality is the emotionality or urgency of the message that encourages concerned people to share the news with their friends.
We have seen multiple variations of these shared on local buy-and-sell Facebook groups across Canada and the U.S. USA Today also reported about it in October.
These posts are shared in local buy-and-sell groups because there is already a sense of community and trust within these crowds, and people may not realize that scammers are targeting members. Scammers sometimes also turn comments off on the posts so other group members can’t oust them.
BBB offers these tips to avoid being scammed by a bait-and-switch Facebook ad:
- Do a bit of digging before resharing a post on your profile. Read the information carefully and look at the profile of the person who created and shared the original post. If the profile is from Florida but shared the post in a Canadian group, it may be a red flag of a bait-and-switch publication.
- Find out when the poster created the Facebook profile. Scammers always create profiles when their old one gets banned. If you click on their profile, it will tell you how long they have been a member of the group. You can also find additional information on their public profile.
- You should see it in the news. If a child goes missing or a tragedy occurs, you’ll most likely see it on different news outlets or shared by law enforcement, not on a random post.
- Do a reverse image search on Google. That will allow you to find out if the pictures you saw were used on other ads or websites in different cities.
- Find similar posts. Copy and paste the text from the post into Facebook’s search tool to see if other posts with the same text and different pictures show up.
- If you suspect a post is a scam, report it to Facebook.
If this scam has targeted you, help others by filing a scam report at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Subscribe to BBB Scam Alerts and get weekly updates about the latest scams.
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