Social media offering new playground for fraudsters

As posted on April 16, 2014 on www.fraud.org

In recent months, Fraud.org has received an increasing number of complaints from consumers who were contacted by scammers through social media sites. For example, consumers report being contacted on Facebook by sites impersonating the well-known companies with exciting news that they have “won” promotional contests or work-at-home opportunities.

In one complaint, an unsuspecting consumer from Georgia said, “The person contacted me through Facebook and said that I had won $2 million, plus $5,000 a week. Since I always get stuff from Publishers Clearing House, I thought it was legit – until they said that I needed to go and get a confirmation card for $200 for the insurance.”

Another consumer (we'll call her Katie) reported responding to a Facebook ad related to an energy drink called Fuga. They offered to pay $300 up front and an additional $400 each week if Katie wrapped her car with an ad for the Fuga Energy Drink company. After sending them personal financial information and information about her vehicle, Katie was told wire money to the company to finalize the deal.

A consumer from Kentucky reported, “I was randomly contacted while on Facebook by a very convincing Publishers Clearing House look-alike page. After two days of corresponding with me about the $100,000 prize I ‘won’ … they informed me that, in order to actually receive my prize, I would need to first purchase a pre-paid money card in the amount of $549, which he would use for the purpose of paying taxes.”

Facebook is not the only social media site scammers are using to contact consumers. Fraud.org also received complaints from consumers contacted via Instagram and Twitter.

When contacted by the phone, through the mail, or online on social media sites by unknown people or businesses, consumers should always be wary about the legitimacy of any offer they receive. Keep these tips in mind:

  • If someone claims you’ve won a prize or lottery, but ask you to send them a fee in advance, be suspicious. You shouldn’t have to pay money to get money you’ve won.
  • Legitimate representatives of Publishers Clearing House do not send private messages or friend requests on Facebook.
  • Never give someone your credit card number or other financial bank account information in order to receive your prize.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone reaches out to you and you haven’t entered any contests, it’s probably not a real contest.
  • If you have questions about the legitimacy of a contest or sweepstakes visit Fraud.org to find out more information about the potential scam before you become a victim.