Facebook can be a wonderful place to connect with long lost friends, stay up to date with family and friends, and share common interests with your community. With almost 3 billion active users around the world, it’s a popular place to connect with others. It can be safe too when you take advantage of its Facebook settings and are careful about the information you share.
In this article we explore some of the common scams on Facebook, how to avoid them, and top tips to help you protect your privacy. But first, if you’re new to Facebook and social media in general, you can start with our short course, what is social media?
In this article:
What to watch out for on Facebook
There’s a common misconception that romance scams only target singles on dating apps when in fact they extend to older women playing online games such as Words with Friends on Facebook. Scammers pose as lonely individuals looking for companionship and claim to be widowed, divorced, or working interstate or overseas. They eventually create a story that requires your financial help.
They may say their money is tied up elsewhere so they can’t pay for an airline ticket to visit you, for example, or they urgently need money to pay for medical expenses for a family member. The stories vary, but they ultimately rely on your willingness to help a friend out.
Find out more about romance scams.
Fake Facebook ads
Many businesses use Facebook to advertise their products in your feed. Some are legitimate but keep an eye out for fake ads that sell products at prices that are too good to be true. For example, a laptop that retails at $900 that’s selling for $29.99 is a scam.
The ad links to a fake website, and if you enter your credit card details to pay for the item, they’ll be stolen by scammers.
Keep an eye out for Facebook ads featuring celebrities endorsing investment schemes that encourage people to sign up to crypto or money-making schemes. Once you sign up, you’ll be contacted by scammers who put pressure on you to deposit money into fake schemes.
Pay ID scams on Facebook Marketplace
Facebook Marketplace is a popular buy / sell site where you can buy and sell used items from individuals in your local community, just like Gumtree.
One scam to watch out for on Marketplace involves scammers claiming to use Pay ID to pay for an item. Pay ID is a fast way to pay someone using their email address or mobile number instead of a BSB and account number.
The scammer responds to an ad and doesn’t try to negotiate on price, they simply say they want to buy the item but can’t pick it up in person so they’ll be sending a relative. They offer to pay using Pay ID and so request your email address or phone number. They then claim to have paid for the item and accidentally paid you extra, so they ask you to repay them the difference. For example, they claim to have paid you $100 for an item that only cost $25.
In reality, they haven’t sent any money at all, and any confirmation emails showing the overpayment are fake. No money appears in your account. The Pay ID scam is similar to the overpayment scam on Gumtree that uses PayPal as the payment method.
Fake news is not a new concept, however it’s much easier to spread on Facebook. Be aware that fake news does exist, so question the source and don’t believe everything you see or read. You can find more information on how to spot fake news online on the eSafety website.
Facebook safety tips
Don’t send money to people you meet on Facebook
Loaning money to a Facebook friend you have never met in person, despite regular contact, is one of the biggest red flags that you’re dealing with a scammer. Scammers are patient and will work to build your trust over weeks or even years so that you think you’re helping a friend out by loaning them money. Once you send them money or pay for something on their behalf, they will find more ways to get you to send more money.
Adjust your privacy settings
Use Facebook’s Privacy Checkup feature to review your privacy and security settings so that you’re in control of who you share things with. Go to your profile picture in the top left corner of the page and select Settings & Privacy, then Privacy Checkup.
The Privacy Checkup features allows you to do things like adjust who can see what you share in future and past posts and who can see information like your phone number, email address and date of birth.
You can also review and remove websites or apps you’ve used your Facebook details to log in to, as well as review your ad preferences to select what information on your profile can be used by advertisers to contact you.
You can even set up Privacy Checkup Reminders since Facebook routinely adds new features that can sometimes change your privacy settings and affect the information you share.
Find out more about controlling your Facebook privacy settings in our free short course. You'll also find information on the difference between suggested posts and advertising on Facebook.
Because Facebook encourages you to share personal information, it can be a treasure trove for identity thieves. So be mindful about what you post on your page and in group chats. Keep in mind that comments and pictures you share with others can be seen by people you may not know, like friends of friends, so don’t give away personal details like your home address or date of birth, for example.
Use a strong password
A strong password is key to keeping your online accounts secure. Security experts recommend using passphrases instead of passwords as they make it harder for others to guess. Find out how you can use the substitution method to create a passphrase.
Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know in real life
People are not always who they say they are online so don’t feel obliged to accept every friend request you receive. When you receive a friend request, check to see whether you’re already friends with the person who has friended you. If you are, the new ‘friend’ may be a fake Facebook account that’s been set up in your friend’s name by a scammer.
Use the block, unfriend or unfollow functions
You can take action if you come across a post that you don’t like. You can hide posts to see fewer posts like that, unfollow a person or group so you no longer see future posts from them, and report posts to Facebook. They will not get a message to let them know that you have done this. If someone is contacting you and you don’t want them to, you can ‘block’ them - this stops them from being able to communicate with you. Find out how to unfollow and block people on Facebook.
Avoid using Facebook to log in to other websites
When you use your Facebook login details to sign in to other websites, it may save you the trouble of having to remember more login details, but it comes at a price. Facebook shares your data with websites that you use your Facebook username and password to log in to. The good news is you can manage the privacy settings for apps, websites and games that you’ve logged in to with Facebook .
For more information and tips on how to stay safe on Facebook, see our free online course and the eSafety Commissioner’s eSafety guide .
Where to go for help
Scams can happen to anyone so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are steps you can take to get help if you think you have been the victim of a scam.
- Contact Facebook to report the scam at
- Contact your bank immediately to ask them to stop any further transactions.
- Contact IDCARE, a free support service for people impacted by scams and identity theft, to build a response plan. Visit IDCARE or call 1800 595 160.
- Report the scam to Scamwatch to warn others.
- Being scammed can be emotionally and financially stressful so get support for yourself. Reach out to family or friends, or speak to Lifeline and Beyond Blue for a confidential chat.
This article was originally published November 24, 2020.