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How to avoid falling for giveaway scams on Facebook
© Bernhard Richter |
Security & privacy

These giveaway scams are all over Facebook, Instagram and Cash App – Don’t fall for it

Scammers often target victims with fanciful schemes to increase their wealth. Whether through investing in cryptocurrencies or filling in forms, there will always be a catch. Pro tip: Get Kim’s eBook Cryptocurrency 101 for sound advice on how to invest in crypto.

While phishing emails and text messages are frequently used scamming methods, social media also forms part of the criminal arsenal. One popular scheme is known as a giveaway scam. It might sound like a great deal, but you’re probably not going to be happy with the results.

Think that you can tell fact from fiction? Read on to see how Facebook and Instagram serve as the primary delivery method for these types of scams.

Here’s the backstory

Everybody loves a good deal, but there is no such thing as free money. Regardless, a Facebook and Instagram advertisement is promising users $750 in Cash App rewards. It has also popped up in WhatsApp and Facebook groups.

The premise is simple: fill in a short survey, and you’ll get a reward for your effort. But that alone should send alarm bells ringing. According to the fact-checking website Snopes, the scam has been around since at least May of last year.

“Most of them appeared to lead to brief surveys in Google Docs or on pages before ultimately asking users for personally identifiable information (PII),” Snopes explains. As a result, criminals can commit identity fraud, launch phishing attacks, or steal your social media and banking accounts with your personal information.

Facebook giveaway scam

Also making the rounds on Facebook and Instagram is a book exchange program that promises the return of reading materials for doing only one thing.

This idea is spread through social media and WhatsApp groups and urges recipients to sign up for the book exchange. All you need to do in addition to supplying your name and email address is send a few friends’ names and contact information.

You then send one book to a random participant for the book exchange to work, and you’ll allegedly receive 36 books in return. The thing is, there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive any books. Not only that, but this is an illegal pyramid scheme.

What you can do about it

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) points out it goes downhill quickly. “This kind of gift exchange is actually an illegal pyramid scam. Eventually, new people will stop participating or responding to the messages. Then, new recruits will never receive the books they were promised,” the BBB explains.

Not only would you have lost the money it costs to buy and send a book, but you’ve also compromised your details and that of your friends. To stay safe, here are some tips from BBB:

  • Ignore plays on your emotions. Don’t fall for pleas to participate in a book exchange because you’ll be “brightening someone’s day” or “paying it forward.” Think about it logically. Is it sustainable to give one book and receive 36 in return? Offers like these are sure signs of a pyramid scheme.
  • Too good to be true? There’s probably a catch. We all like to get things for free, but don’t let this cloud your judgement. Keep in mind that any program that offers big returns for a small contribution is probably doing something illegal. 
  • Guard your personal information. Never give your name, address, email, or other sensitive information to a stranger. This will make you vulnerable to other scams and identity theft.
  • Report social media posts that promote pyramid schemes. If you spot a pyramid scheme on social media, report it by clicking “report post” or “report photo.”

Keep reading

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