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Don’t fall for these clever Facebook Messenger scams

We’re all well aware of the multitude of problems Facebook users have had to deal with over the years. Viral hoaxes, like-farming scams and not caring about users’ privacy — Facebook has it all covered.

Those are just some of the many reasons you need to take privacy into your own hands when dealing with the social media giant. Tap or click here for privacy settings you need to use for Facebook.

As if Facebook doesn’t pose enough risks on its own, cybercriminals are now using one of its most popular products to try to rip you off. The scheme is so convincing, even you could fall for it.

Uncle Rico … is that you?

Consumer Reports recently detailed a nightmare scenario that played out for a Facebook Messenger user. A Florida woman received a message from an account that belonged to one of her friends she had chatted with in the past.

Her friend said he’d won a grant for $150,000 from a company called Global Greengrants Fund. Even more amazing, the friend told her he saw her name on a list of other people who also qualified for the grant.

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He then gave her a phone number to call for more information. The woman made the call, handed over some personal information to prove her identity and then the alarm went off in her head.

The alarm sounded when she was told to receive the grant she would have to pay a $1,500 processing fee upfront. Luckily, she felt like she was being scammed and not only hung up but also reported it to the FTC — and it’s a good thing, because she was being duped.

The scary thing is the Global Greengrants Fund is real and the woman had no reason to believe her friend was lying to her. They had spoken through Messenger in the past, so she didn’t think twice when hearing about their good fortune.

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What she didn’t know at the time was this is an elaborate scam that is becoming more common. Thieves are stealing photos and personal information from social media sites and creating fake profiles to set up imposter accounts.

You can see how easy it would be to fall for a scam like this, right? Receiving a message from a friend or family member is normal these days, so you probably wouldn’t think twice if you got one.

How to stay protected from imposter scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said elaborate phishing scams with a twist of identity fraud thrown in like this have been growing in recent years.

And scammers don’t always ask for money upfront, like what happened with the woman we just mentioned. Sometimes they try tricking you into handing over sensitive data like passwords, account numbers, Social Security numbers, banking details and more.

To help you avoid falling for these scams, the FTC suggests the following safety precautions:

Be skeptical when someone asks for money

If you ever receive a message through Facebook, or an email asking for bank account details, credit or debit card numbers, be cautious. If a friend or family member is in need of money, don’t send payments online or do a wire transfer.

Make sure you pick up the phone and call them before sending anything. Verify the person asking for money is who they say they are, then decide if you want to help.

Don’t trust all those links

One of the most common ways scammers get paid is by sending malicious links either through text messages or emails. If you click on a malicious link, it could lead to infecting your device with malware or stealing online credentials that result in having your bank account drained.

If you need to conduct business with any company, type its official address directly into your browser to make sure you’re not heading to a spoofed site. Or call the number on the back of your credit or debit card to make sure it’s the official phone number.

Set up 2FA

One way to keep hackers from taking over your social media accounts is by setting up two-factor authentication. Once you enable 2FA, criminals will need more than your password to access your account.

2FA adds an additional step to the login process, which helps protect your account. Tap or click here to find out how to activate 2FA.

Report phishing attempts

If you receive a message or email you believe is a phishing attack, report it to the FTC. The information you give can help fight these types of scams. You can file a complaint here.

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