Scammers often take advantage of social networking sites, earning victims’ trust by pretending to be someone they already know. BBB Scam Tracker has received recent reports of a Facebook impersonation scam where friends’ accounts are either hacked or cloned then used to con residents with grant scams.
How the Scam Works
Residents report scrolling through Facebook when a Facebook Message pops up. It’s your friend, family member, or neighbor. You can tell by their photo and bio information.
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 would 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 lose money to a criminal.
BBB serving Acadiana offers the following tips to avoid being taken by this or similar 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.
Remember grants can not be won or awarded. They have to be earned, usually for a specific reason, and the application process is long and detailed.
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. Don’t forget to also report scams to bbb.org/scamtracker.
“Look for the Seal” and Start with Trust®.BBB Serving Acadiana is a private non-profit organization. BBB strives for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses.
BBB Serving Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.