Identifying Scam Posts on Facebook

I see them almost every time I look at Facebook. Posts that tug at your heartstrings with pathetic stories about lost puppies found by the side of the road, lost elders wandering away from home, or children that are in the hospital and need prayer. One thing they all have in common is the request to Share this Post!

Don’t do it! 9 times out of 10 they are scams taking advantage of your innate urge to help others and the Facebook algorithm.

Here are the red flags.

  1. Image of a helpless animal or human that tugs on your heartstrings
  2. The post only mentions a general location. Often they are posted in groups focused for a specific area. So, for example, if the group is for the largest city in Oregon, the blurb will read “puppy found in Portland” but not mention specifically where or when.
  3. Comments are turned off on the post. This prevents people identifying the post as a scam.
  4. The request to share the post to reach a wider audience.
  5. The posting person’s profile is often not a personal page, but a business page. Often it is nowhere near the location of the group. Many times the profile page is recent, if not brand new, and has no posts on it.
  6. The posting person’s business profile will have reviews stating this person is a scammer.

Why do they do this?

The purpose of these posts is to reach a wide audience as fast as possible. Once the post has gotten good traction, the content of the post is changed to a very suspicious offer that involves money.

One example of a scam replacement post is a rent-to-own house that is much cheaper than the going rate in the area. The house looks like an amazing opportunity so many people will want it. The scammer will often ask for a down payment to hold the house for the aspiring homeowners, to hold their place in line while credit and background checks are made.

They get the victim’s credit card information to charge a fee to their account and the scam is complete. Once they get that information, they can use the credit card to purchase whatever they want for a few days before the happy potential homeowner realizes what happened.

These are hard scams for the Facebook bots to identify because there are so many legitimate lost puppies, sick babies, and wandering elder posts that do need to be shared.

What can you do to stop them?

  1. Always look for the red flags mentioned above.
  2. Check the original poster’s profile before sharing.
  3. If the subject is a lost person, check the local Amber, Silver, and Missing Persons alerts before sharing. Once the person is found, take your post down.
  4. If you do accidentally share a post like this, take it down immediately. Use the three dots in the upper right-hand corner to delete your post. See the image below.
  5. Report the post to Facebook as spam. If it’s on a group page, report it to the admin as well.
  6. If you see someone else sharing one of these posts, let them know. Better yet, send them a copy of this post. You may feel free to share this one with no danger.

How to Delete a Post on Facebook

Image of a Faceook post showing how to find the edit options and move a post to the trash.
To delete a post on Facebook, click the 3 dots to open the edit panel and move it to the trash.

Featured image is “Red Flags” by Victoria Reay licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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