Someone on Facebook wants to give you a free phone? No, it's a scam

Photo (c) Mac Trunk - Getty Images

Identity theft expert says Facebook Marketplace is ripe with thieves

Not that Facebook needs another headache, but the old adage of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” may apply here. Scams related to “free phones” are plaguing the social media company.

“Free phones on Facebook” seems to be a pretty popular lure. When ConsumerAffairs Googled that term, we found 158,000 results.

Inside Facebook, we found another 60 groups that offered “free cell phones.” Some of those may well be legit or have strings attached, but the one that got technology writer Kim Komando’s goat is one that preys on people looking for a cheap phone upgrade. 

“We’re not talking about generic burner phones, either… often hawking name-brand devices for less than $10,” she said in her warning.

“This scam starts deceptively. Sellers use the Amazon label to make deals seem legitimate to unsuspecting victims. These promotions claim you will receive “a special offer” from Amazon… [implying] that these extremely affordable phones are old stock that needs to be cleared out, or they’re being sold for charity.”

Scammers are leaning on new techniques to pull their scams off

Komando says that anyone who clicks on the link listed in the promotion is carried off to one of the scam world’s new faves – a spoofed Amazon website where a person will see all sorts of fake reviews and Facebook comments. But to add pressure and squeeze the consumer into pulling the trigger, a gigantic timer counts down the minutes you have to click to get a deal on a new iPhone 14, Samsung S23, or other phones before the promotion vanishes.

Amazon wants no part of this. Komando said the company has spoken publicly about reports of this scam, confirming that it’s not affiliated with these “deals” in any shape or form.

She said that some of the ads are employing another new toy – artificial intelligence.

“If you come across these ads, you may see a hastily-made video of a product unpackaging with an AI-generated voice giving more false details compelling you to buy. The unbelievable prices are a dead giveaway to the fact that they are scams.”

Another sinkhole 

Outside of groups, posts, and ads, consumers also face risks of being scammed in Facebook Marketplace schemes. Aura’s Gaetano DiNardi says that scammers on Facebook Marketplace aren’t just after your money – they want your personal information so they can take over your Facebook profile or go on a shopping spree of their own using your online bank account.

He suggests that anyone shopping on Facebook Marketplace should do these three things:

Don’t fall for too-good-to-be-true deals. Echoing Komando, DiNardi says that if we all keep in mind the golden rule of fraud prevention – If a deal seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam – we should be okay.

Regularly check your credit report and bank statements. The golden fleece for most scammers is almost always someone’s financial account. “Check for the warning signs of identity theft — such as strange charges on your bank statement or accounts you don’t recognize. An identity theft protection service like Aura can monitor your credit and statements for you and alert you to any signs of fraud,” he suggests.

Consider signing up for identity theft protection. This is not intended to be a commercial for anyone, but Aura and others offer identity theft protection that may be worth considering. All seem designed to monitor a user’s most sensitive personal information like online accounts and finances for signs of fraud.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a scammer or Facebook or Instagram or a cyberthief that was able to change someone’s public record, identity theft companies vow they can help a consumer take action before it’s too late.

Identity theft protection is fairly priced and certainly worth the money if someone gets hit by a crook. Most companies offer free trials and charge about $10–$25 a month for basic services and offer benefits including stolen fund replacement, identity restoration, credit monitoring, and online monitoring. 

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