Fake Facebook giveaways are rife on the social networking site. They can ask you to share a Facebook post, follow a page or click a link to win something.
But the people behind these giveaways are hidden. They operate from anonymous websites or Facebook pages, with little or no contact information. Yet Facebook users in their thousands will jump through hoops on the chance that the competitions are legitimate, often under the justification of “what’s the worst that can happen?” or “just in case” it’s the real deal.
We interview two people who fell for these scams and why falling for them can be very bad indeed.
Case 1. Laura
Laura clicked a link offering free $100 shopping coupons for Walmart for those that clicked through.
What happened when you clicked the link?
I went straight through to a page that said there were only 47 free coupons left and that number was going down before my eyes. The page also said I had to click Share and share the page on my timeline as well as share the link in at least 5 groups I was a member of, which I did.
What happened after that?
It initially wouldn’t let me proceed but after I shared the link a second time it loaded another page that said I needed to unlock the offer my completing a survey. I clicked OK and landed on some other webpage that was offering a chance to win an iPhone. It asked for all my details to register, stuff like my email and phone number which I filled out and clicked submit.
After that the page just thanked me for my participation and asked me to close the window. I did that and there were no further instructions on claiming my $100 coupon for Walmart.
When did you realise it was a scam?
I used Google and I wished I had done before. I Googled $100 free coupon for Walmart or something and read that it was all a scam to get your personal details and the coupons don’t exist. I’d clicked the link offering the coupons again and the “available coupons” had magically gone back up to 47! It was annoying but I didn’t realise how bad it would get. I just thought I’d get a couple of spammy emails and that was the end of it. I was wrong.
And what happened?
Later that evening my phone was ringing and it was pre-recorded tapes telling me I won a prize and to press a number to claim it. I knew now that this is just one big scam to get you to sign up for things. My phone has been ringing all week with this sort of stuff. And I can’t even look at my email inbox which gets dozens of spam emails every day now. It’s even coming through the post as well, all telling me I’m a winner even though I haven’t even entered anything. It’s the last time I fall for this sort of stuff and I’m telling my friends not to click the link I posted.
Case 2. Jon.
Jon saw a post on a Facebook page called “Daily Deals” claiming they were giving away Luxury RV campers. All he had to do for a chance of winning was to like the Facebook post, comment “Yes” and follow the Facebook page that published the post.
What was the first thing that happened after you liked and shared the post?
Nothing. For about 2 days. The post I shared said that a winner wouldn’t be picked until May 1st I think. But then the day before that I got a chat message from the page congratulating me and that I was a lucky winner chosen to get one of the camper RVs.
Were you suspicious of the messages from the get-go?
Not at the time, but on hindsight I should have been for sure. They were riddled with spelling mistakes and some of the sentences just didn’t make any sense. But we were so excited that we just overlooked all of that.
What did the messages ask you to do?
The first one just congratulated us and then another asked for our information to verify we were real people. They asked for our address, phone number, full names, date of birth and all that information. Without thinking we just replied through Facebook with all that information.
And after that?
Once we sent all the information they asked for us, then the really strange message appeared. It said that our brand new RV camper was about to ship, but first we needed to pay a “mandatory courier fee” of $200. They said that by law we had to pay for it. It didn’t really make any sense but I initially agreed to do it.
Did you pay the $200?
We asked how they wanted us to pay, expecting them to send us to some website or ask for card information or something, but they said we needed to send the money to Western Union. That’s when my alarm bells rang. Far too late I know, but I remember hearing before not to send money through Western Union unless you know who you’re sending it to. So I stopped and did my research, and that’s when I finally realised I was being scammed. If I hadn’t done that research, we would have $200 stolen just like that, I know that now.
Did you have any final words from the scammers?
They got some choice words just before I blocked them, but they had the last laugh when our email inbox started filling up with spam and we started getting marketing calls on the cell. Now I have to live with the fact that crooks have all my personal information so I need to keep an eye on all my accounts. I’ve also had to warn all my friends because I shared the same link with all of them. Feeling a bit of a fool would be somewhat of an understatement.
Remember, don’t enter competitions on Facebook unless you know the people behind them. That could be a local company that you know, or the official page of a brand. If the people behind the competition are anonymous, don’t give them your personal information!