When you think about Facebook, you probably think about a way to connect with friends and family spread out all over the world. Pictures of babies, lots of puppies and kittens, updates from your network, funny videos and the like.
But when cybercriminals think about Facebook, they think about a huge network consisting of 1.6 billion easy targets, just waiting to be scammed and taken advantage of.
And the proof is in the numbers. According to Cisco’s 2016 Annual Security Report, there's at least 33,681,000 known Facebook scams , and we've only covered a fraction of them. They come in the form of fake news stories, coupons and free offers, catfishing and sweetheart scams, lottery scams, friend request scams, pranks ... the list goes on.
Luckily, while the pure number of identified scams seems intimidating, there is evidence that these scams are on the decline, thanks to new security measures put into place by Facebook that get rid of imposter profiles and generally tighter security settings.
But Guy Bunker, senior vice president at security firm Clearswif, warned The Guardian that Facebook users shouldn't just rely on Facebook to get rid of scam pages and hoaxes, but need to take better control of their own privacy and security.
Here are some general rules of thumb for avoiding Facebook scams:
- Give yourself a privacy checkup.
- Do you know how to spot a malicious website? One way is to look at the domain name. If you find yourself on a site that has nothing to do with the "reputable" site you clicked on, click off of it.
- Trouble with grammar and spelling is one of the biggest red flags you can spot.
- If your online romance turns into a request for money, immediately shut down all communication.
- Don't fall for online pranks either. Click here for a handy tool that can help you separate fact from fiction (aka satire sites from real sites) online.
- Report scams to the BBB and to Facebook. From the Facebook homepage, click on the down arrow in the upper-right corner. Click Report a Problem and select Abusive Content. Follow the instructions for the problem you're having.
Meanwhile, James Maude, senior security engineer at Avecto, offered up tried and true advice: “The best advice is something that your parents probably taught you: if it looks too good to be true it probably is.”