ARLINGTON – Scammers often take advantage of social networking sites, earning victims’ trust by pretending to be someone they already know. Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker has received recent reports of a Facebook impersonation scam with a charity-focused twist.
How the 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
To learn more about avoiding scams, read BBB’s article 10 Steps to Avoid Scams. To learn about online charity fundraising, check out these tips on Give.org. Also, see Give.org‘s Giving Guidance & Tips.
If you’ve been the victim of a grant or charity scam on Facebook, spread the word by reporting your experience in the BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your experience can help others to spot a scam.For more information on BBB Middle Tennessee, Inc. contact Marty Donnelly, regional manager at (931) 520-0008 or firstname.lastname@example.org.