Some Facebook posts go viral. When the subject is moving or emotional, users often share it with their friends.
Scammers have now figured that out and have devised a sophisticated scheme to get unsuspecting Facebook users to do their bidding. They are creating posts about an event or news story designed to tug at your heartstrings.
“Please share this with your friends so that more people are aware,” the scammer might write. So you do.
But when shared, the post changes completely. Your Facebook friends don’t see the post about the lost dog. Instead, they see a post about a bogus scheme designed to scam more victims. But because you shared it, your friends think you are endorsing it.
If you’re friends think you are endorsing the scheme, they may be inclined to share it with their friends, helping the scammer to reach more potential victims.
What friends are seeing
According to the Better Business Bureau, posts have changed into ads for a home for rent. The scammer doesn’t own the home, he’s simply using a picture of a house and demands a large deposit from a victim who wants to rent it.
Other posts have transformed into work-from-home schemes in which the post declares that anyone who signs up – for a fee, of course – is guaranteed a certain return.
Law enforcement is on to the scam and is warning consumers. The Bee County, Texas Sheriff’s Department recently warned residents the scammers have set up entire phony Facebook groups that claim to be local community groups.
"This group has the same pictures and posts in each one of their pages for many different cities,” the department said in a post on its Facebook page. “They have posts of found dogs, missing people, and other posts that get your attention," a post from Bee County officials said. "DO NOT SHARE AND DO NOT JOIN THESE GROUPS!!"
And when your grandmother shares a post that happens to be about a shady multi-level marketing scheme, you can bet she thought she was sharing something else.