Social media has its pros, like keeping up with friends and family, special events and even some news. But it also has its cons. There are several hoaxes popping up on Facebook now. It seems like we see an increase in hoaxes every holiday season.
Scammers try to take advantage of people who are in the giving mood, and every year, people fall victim.
And another is feeding into the political climate of the U.S. and Facebook's inability to control paid advertisements that show up in your feeds.
Here's what to look for.
1. Ads that look too shocking to believe
ProPublica reports that Facebook has sold ads to cybercriminals to infect your computer with malware. They are political in nature, usually targeting certain people who have a particular view on politics.
Facebook allows advertisers to pick and choose who sees the ads. So a scammer can send an ad to someone they have identified as "liberal" with the title mentioning something about President Trump and approval ratings. The targeted person is more likely to click on it if it's something they are passionate about.
When they do, their computer freezes along with a demand for a ransom to unlock the computer. Turns out, if the person just restarted their computer, all would have been fine. But a lot of people don't know what to do and pay the ransom.
2. Promises of receiving gifts
What's happening is the "secret sisters gift exchange" scam asks you to purchase one gift for someone else at the cost of $10. In return, the scammer says that you will receive between six and 36 gifts for yourself.
The "secret sisters gift exchange" is similar to how a pyramid scheme works. The U.S. Postal Service says this is basically a chain letter, which is illegal because it's a form of gambling.
The wording might be different depending on which post you see, but the message is the same.
3. Wine lovers beware
The Holiday Wine Exchange is similar to the Secret Sister scam, but instead, it tries to lure in wine lovers. Here's how it works, you're asked if you're interested in a holiday wine bottle exchange, or Total Wine gift card exchange.
You are told that you only have to purchase one bottle of wine valued at $15 or more. In return, the scammer says that you will receive between six and 36 wine bottles or gift cards. The return depends on how many wine drinkers join. Don't fall for it, you won't get anything back as the scammer keeps the money.
What to do if you fell for the scams
If you see a post like this, don't send money. It's a scam and you won't get anything in return. Even though it's illegal, local police will have a hard time tracking down who scammed you. They could be anywhere in the world. But it's good to at least make a police report if you fall victim.
Also, if you see a post like this pop up in your feed, or any other hoax, flag it.
To report a Facebook post:
- Click the 3 dots (...) in the top-right corner of the post.
- Click Give feedback on this post.
- Select the option that best describes the issue and follow the on-screen instructions.
One way to stop Facebook from tracking you and serving you creepy ads
Facebook seems to track you in many ways but you can take control. Click here to learn how to stop Facebook ads.