When Juanita Molinar was contacted by HGTV's Property Brothers telling her that she had won a prize, she was excited. Ecstatic. Over the moon... until she noticed that things weren't quite adding up. After doing some research, she realized that she'd nearly fallen for a scam Facebook page, a nefarious type of Facebook giveaway scam.
If you're not careful, you could fall prey to a similar scam. So before you answer a win notification on Facebook, be sure to get to know what a Facebook scam looks like and how to avoid it.
How a Facebook Giveaway Scam Works
Juanita Molinar is a Property Brothers fan, so she followed the show's page on Facebook. She was thrilled and surprised when one of the show's stars, Drew Scott, started to send her private messages. He asked her some questions, then told her she'd won $25,000 from the Dream it, Win it, Live it Sweepstakes.
This passed one of the initial checks you should make when you're notified of a prize win: The Dream It, Win It, Live It Sweepstakes was a legitimate giveaway run by HGTV giving away that prize.
Molinar was thrilled at first, but soon began to feel that something wasn't right: Her so-called win had some of the warning signs of sweepstakes scams.
One of the things that made her worry was that the person calling himself "Drew Scott" was asking her to make a purchase before receiving her prize.
Legitimate sweepstakes prizes never come with a catch. You never need to pay to receive a real prize!
When she investigated further, she discovered that she was the target of a Facebook giveaway scam. The profile that had contacted her did not belong to Drew Scott at all.
Molinar wasn't the only person who was targeted by this sweepstakes scam. Renee Carr had a very similar experience, and luckily also realized she was being scammed.
When they found out what was happening, the Property Brothers made an official statement about the scam on Facebook.
How Scammers Use Fake Facebook Pages
To seem legitimate, scammers create fake pages to use for Facebook giveaway scams. It's usually a page that looks like it belongs to someone you'd trust: a big company like Publishers Clearing House or a famous person like a well-known HGTV star or a popular celebrity.
These pages look legitimate, trustworthy. Scammers steal logos, photographs, and other graphics to make the page look like it belongs to the person or company they are imitating.
Because no one would believe in an HGTV page that has no followers, they build up their numbers by placing Facebook ads, creating other fake accounts to give their fake pages lots of "likes", offering incentives like Facebook quizzes or small giveaways to get people to like the page, and other tricks.
Once their fake page is followed by a significant number of real people, they contact those followers to tell them they've won a prize.
Who wouldn't be tempted to give up personal information or money to get that big prize they've been dreaming of? But they are actually attempting to convince their targets to hand over money or information that they can use for identity fraud.
So how can you tell the difference between a legitimate prize win and a Facebook giveaway scam? Here are a few ways to spot a Facebook scam:
Know the Red Flags of a Scam
Start by knowing the signs of a sweepstakes scam. If you're used to watching out for sweepstakes fraud, then Facebook contest scams will have warning signs that you're already familiar with. Are they using terrible grammar and spelling that you would never expect on a professional site? Or asking for money or for other personal information? If so, stay clear!
Check Whether the Facebook Page Is Verified
Facebook verifies the identities of certain organizations and celebrities that are likely to be faked. Pages that Facebook has verified, like the White House's Facebook page, have a blue checkmark next to their name on their profiles. You can be confident that verified pages are legitimate.
Note, however, that not being verified does not mean that the page is not legitimate. Currently, companies cannot request that Facebook verify their pages. The legitimate pages of many large and legitimate websites have not been verified.
Check the Company's Website for Legit Facebook Pages
If you want to find the legitimate Facebook page of your favorite companies, start with their websites rather than a Facebook search. If you follow a link from the company's site, you can be confident that they endorse that page.
Be Wary of Friend Requests from Celebrities
t might be flattering to think that your favorite television and movie stars are trying to be your Facebook friends. But remember, there are millions of people on Facebook. Unless you happen to have a personal relationship with a celebrity, it's unlikely that they're asking to be your Facebook friend.
PCH repeatedly reminds the public that they do not send friend requests: "Fact: No member of the Prize Patrol will send you a friend request on Facebook". And they only have one official page. Their Prize Patrol members no longer have individual pages, to make imitating them harder for scammers.
Other Signs That Something Is Off
Celebrities and big companies usually have tons of followers and a page full of interesting posts about topics that are important to them. So if the page was founded recently, has few if any recent posts, has bad spelling or grammar, has a low number of followers who don't interact much with the page, or makes posts that don't seem to fit the goals and the reputation of the company posting them, proceed with caution.
By following these tips, you can avoid the risks and disappointment of falling for a Facebook giveaway scam.