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Facebook COVID scams
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Facebook scam: Watch out for this new trick to steal your cash

Your social media information is more valuable than you think. Sure, criminals can cause a lot of harm if they get their hands on your credit card, but they can do much damage with your social media account. Tap or click here for 10 accounts more valuable to cybercriminals than your credit card.

Now, criminals are incorporating social media to spread new scams hoping to rip you off. If you receive a message from a friend, it might not actually be from a friend at all.

Keep reading for new ways cybercriminals are using social media to scam people and a few ways to spot the schemes.

Here’s the backstory

When the COVID pandemic hit, many Americans needed financial help to make it through the hard times. Businesses were laying off workers. Restaurants and entertainment venues were closing their doors. Times were tough. So the U.S. government stepped up and sent relief checks to millions of Americans.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), scammers are trying to exploit COVID relief to find new victims. Here’s how the scam works.

You receive a message through Facebook, Facebook Messenger or Instagram that looks like it’s from a friend or family member. They excitedly tell you about a government grant for COVID relief. In many cases, they claim to have already applied for the grant and received thousands of dollars.

The thing is, it’s a scam. There isn’t a new round of government COVID relief. If you fall for the scheme, it will cost you money. You’re probably wondering how applying for a grant could cost you money. Good point.

That’s where the scam comes into play. The message claims that to receive funds from the grant, you need to pay a fee upfront. They claim you must pay a delivery or processing fee during the application process.

So how are scammers pulling this off? There are a couple of ways to conduct this scheme. Thieves either hack your friends’ social media accounts so they can send messages that appear to be from them. Or, they steal public information from their social media account to spoof them, making them look like the real deal.

Either way, the thieves bank on the fact that you will trust someone you’ve known for years and won’t question the ruse. But don’t buy it! It’s a scam.

“This scam was very convincing. It looked like it came from someone I know and trust. Because of COVID-19, I was laid off, so I would try it. The scammer said my name was on a list to receive this grant money. Instead, I lost $1,000 of my unemployment,” one victim told the BBB.

How to spot Facebook COVID relief scams

Social media can feel scammy in nature, so it’s a good idea always to keep your guard up. Fake news stories have plagued society and spread through sites like Facebook for years. Don’t let scams like this COVID relief scheme fool you.

To help spot scams like these and avoid falling victim, the BBB gives the following tips to stay protected:

  • Be cautious of your friends’ recommendations online: Your friend or family member may have excellent judgment in real-life. But online, email messages, social media posts, and direct messages could be from a hacked or spoofed account. So be wary.
  • Don’t pay for a free grant. It isn’t really free if you have to pay money to claim a “free” grant. A real government agency won’t ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant you have been awarded. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies can be found at Grants.gov.
  • Check for spoofs. Research government agencies or organizations to ensure they actually exist. Find legit contact information on official websites and call to be sure the person you’ve heard from is legitimate.
  • Report scam accounts and messages to Facebook and Instagram: Alert administrators to fake profiles, compromised accounts, and spam messages by reporting them on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’ve fallen victim to this type of scam, help others avoid the same fate by filing a scam report at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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