With well over two billion users worldwide, Facebook is a big juicy target for scammers who want to work their way to ill-gotten gains or just to wreak havoc. Unfortunately it can be easy to become a victim given that scams are widespread and in many cases appear to be authentic.

That said, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way to keeping you safe.

Apps and games aren’t always what they seem

There are thousands of legitimate apps and games on Facebook which makes it easy for scammers to slip in apps and games that are nothing more than fronts for scams. Some of the worst are quizzes which collect information for nefarious purposes and can be used to steal your identity or enable a scammer to impersonate you to your friends and family.

They may ask questions like: “What is your mother's maiden name?” or “What is the name of the street you grew up on?” These are common security questions for banking and credit card accounts. Sharing this information can lead to your accounts being hacked, and your personal and financial information being stolen.
  • If someone suggests that you try out an app you’ve never heard of, message them before you use and confirm whether they use that app and if they did actually sent the suggestion. Just because it appears that something was sent to you from a friend doesn’t mean it really was.
Don’t verify your credentials via a post or instant message

Never respond to a post on your wall, in your news feed or in an instant message asking you to click a link to “verify your credentials” or “provide your login information”. Facebook would never make a request like this in such a way. Of course, there are situations in which you’ll be asked to verify your password after you’ve already been logged in, but this will always be in response to an action that you have initiated.

Steer clear of the external link

Beware of clicking unfamiliar external links that show up in your news feed or on your wall even if they appear to have been sent from a trusted friend. If a hacker breaks into an account they can easily pretend to be the legitimate account holder and then send out malicious links that try and steal personal data or inject malware.

Friend or foe?

If you see a post from a “friend” that you feel that is out of character check with them to see whether they did post the content. It could be that their account has been hacked.

Emails from Facebook?

You’ve probably used to receiving emails from Facebook about friend’s birthdays, notifications and updates. Scammers sometimes try to copy these emails and send mails that appear to be from Facebook. To avoid falling victim treat emails that appear to have been sent to you from Facebook with suspicion.

A much safe alternative is to log in to Facebook in the normal way then look at your notifications to see if the event mentioned in the email really took place. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that email is one of the most insecure methods there is for communicating online.

Does a stranger want to be your friend?

A friend of a friend wants to connect with you, its normal. You know and trust your friend so why wouldn’t you want to extend this to their friend? After all perhaps you have common interests, you grew up in the same place, went to the same school and so on.

These friend requests make sense but it’s the one that comes out of the blue that need to be treated with a little caution.
  • Can you determine the age of the account? If it was created within the last week ignore the request unless it came from someone you know personally.
  • You can verify the account’s legitimacy by sending the person a private message and asking them a question that you know they should be able to answer. If they can’t answer it’s a good bet the account is fraudulent.
  • What do the photos in the galleries look like? If the photos are revealing pictures of a member of the opposite sex it’s a scam account. Do other pictures look real or as if they have been lifted from some place on the internet?
  • Are the posts are on the timeline normal of do the look spammy? If they do look fake the profile will be fake too.
If you recognise any of these pointers and the friend request came from a person you’re already friends with its more than likely the request was sent from a cloned account. It’s not unusual for scammers to clone real user accounts to try and scam people they attempt to friend.

Simple but effective

Once you’ve taken these tips on board you can apply them to posts, email links, friend requests, apps and games and determine within less than a minute whether something is genuine or fraudulent.