BBB warns attention-grabbing Facebook post might put friends at risk of scam

FB post author pic copy

The Facebook poster used the name Ella-Louise Wan. However, the photo associated with the profile was taken of Holly Lynn Clark, a woman who recently went missing in Wisconsin.  | Photo courtesy of Better Business Bureau

QUINCY — The Better Business Bureau is warning Facebook users that sharing a certain kind of attention-grabbing post might put their friends at risk of falling victim to a scam.

Don O’Brien, BBB Quincy regional director, said a recent post in one of the Quincy Buy, Sell, Trade groups warned of an 87-year-old man and his dog who were missing. 

However, no old man was missing. Instead, three hours later, the poster updated the post with a phishing scheme to entice them to get gas, groceries and many other rewards. 

“Anyone who saw this post and clicked on the poster’s name could see she just joined the group the same day she posted,” O’Brien said.

The poster used the name Ella-Louise Wan. However, the photo associated with the profile was taken of Holly Lynn Clark, a woman who recently went missing in Wisconsin

“When searching for the post’s history, you can easily see that the post had been altered,” O’Brien said. 

The scam typically starts when a gut-wrenching Facebook post about an injured, lost pet or a missing child grabs your attention. You want to help, so you share the post on your profile.

After you share the post, O’Brien says a scammer changes the original post to a deceptive rental ad or sometimes to a link pointing to a survey that “guarantees” a cash prize. 

“Your friends think you have recommended that content,” O’Brien said.

The original Facebook post, and the post as it was changed less than three hours later. | Photo courtesy of Better Business Bureau

These bait-and-switch ads often aim to either get a deposit for a rental property before the user gets a chance to see the home, or they get your personal information, which could lead to identity theft.

This scheme has many variations, but the commonality is the emotionality or urgency of the message that encourages concerned people to share the news with their friends. 

“These posts can be financially harmful for the unsuspecting,” O’Brien said. “If they click the links on the updated post, they open themselves up to having personal information stolen.”

The BBB offers these tips to avoid being scammed by a bait-and-switch Facebook ad.

  • Do a bit of digging before resharing a post on your profile. Read the information carefully and look at the profile of the person who created and shared the original post. If the profile is from Florida but shared the post in a Canadian group, it may be a red flag of a bait-and-switch publication.
  • Find out when the poster created the Facebook profile. Scammers always create profiles when their old one gets banned. If you click on their profile, it will tell you how long they have been a member of the group. You can also find additional information on their public profile.
  • You should see it in the news. If a child goes missing or a tragedy occurs, you’ll most likely see it on different news outlets or shared by law enforcement, not on a random post.
  • Do a reverse image search on Google. That will allow you to find out if the pictures you saw were used on other ads or websites in different cities.
  • Find similar posts. Copy and paste the text from the post into Facebook’s search tool to see if other posts with the same text and different pictures show up.
  • If you suspect a post is a scam, report it to Facebook.

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