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How to recognize a scam on Facebook

With nearly 3 billion monthly active users in 2021 and a huge amount of personal data from its users, Facebook is like a supermarket for online scams.

7 min read

With nearly 3 billion monthly active users in 2021—including 40 million users in France at the end of 2020—and a huge amount of personal data from its users, Facebook is like a supermarket for online scams. So, if you’re worried about being scammed, protect yourself by reading our guide to Facebook scams.

Facebook: a hotbed of scams

With nearly 75% of French internet users actively using Mark Zuckerberg’s network, Facebook scams have become more sophisticated than ever before. And with access to the personal data of billions of subscribers, fraudsters have much of what they need to take advantage of unsuspecting users.

For example—in 2020, the personal information (full name, date of birth, phone number, and sometimes email addresses) of more than 500 million Facebook users was posted on a cybercrime forum. Using this data, cybercriminals can attempt to hack into your accounts or impersonate you on social networks—or worse, try to get your bank details (a practice known as phishing) by emailing you to request personal data.

To avoid getting scammed on Facebook, you’ll need to stay on top of the tricks these criminals use.

Some of the most common Facebook scams include:

  • The “Who visited my profile” scam. This one was circulating highly a few years ago. Essentially, it prompts you to install a software that will allow you to see who’s viewing your profile, when in reality, you’re downloading a virus that could compromise your personal data. As of yet, there’s no way to know who’s viewing your Facebook profile.
  • Webcam scams. Also known as “sextortion”, this involves scammers retrieving a victim’s intimate videos and threatening to release them if the person doesn’t pay a sum of money.
  • Fake contests, access to intimate videos of celebrities, changing your Facebook profile color, quizzes, or access to sensational articles. All these ploys use the same system as the profile visit scam. You’ll have to download a program to get the promised benefit, which will install a virus to access your personal data.
  • Friend requests from fake accounts. About 10% of Facebook profiles are believed to be fake. If you receive a friend request from someone you don’t know, watch out! Sentimental ploys, misinformation campaigns, or attempts to get your data are the most common scams run by these fake Facebook accounts. Some are even managed automatically by bots rather than real people. This type of scam can also be done via hacked accounts from friends.
  • Suspicious messages on Facebook Messenger. If you receive a suspicious message from one of your contacts with notes such as “This looks like you!” along with a link, do not click on the link—it may be a phishing attempt. As a general rule, if you receive an impersonal message from one of your contacts on Messenger urging you to click on a link, asking you for money, or announcing that you’ve won a contest, someone may be trying to scam you.

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How to recognize a fake Facebook account

If you’re contacted on Facebook by an unknown user, this could be your first warning sign. Here are some tips to discern whether the account is authentic:

  • Check the photo by copying the URL into Google Images. This way, you’ll be able to see if the account owner used a photo taken from the internet.
  • Check if the profile URL matches the account name. If the account has been hacked, these two pieces of data may not match
  • Inspect the information available on the account—including groups the person is a part of, friends, and their location. Tip: if their friends seem to be scattered across the globe, this isn’t a good sign. What’s more, if you find very little information or suspicious details, be on guard.
  • In the case of Facebook pages, make sure they are verified. If they have few or no posts, are riddled with spelling errors, or have very few “likes”, it’s a good idea to be careful here as well.

Identity theft on Facebook

Imagine this—you open Facebook and discover that a profile matching yours, with your photos and data, has been created. This is considered identity theft. Hackers generally need the following key information to steal your identity on Facebook:

  • Your first and last name
  • Your email address
  • Your photos
  • The names of your contacts

Their goal is generally to create a fake account and add your friends in order to scam them, propagate misinformation, or—in rarer cases—harm your reputation. Your data can also be used to create a fake account to perpetrate real estate scams.

How to report and delete a fake Facebook account.

Wondering how to delete a fake Facebook account? The first thing you should do is report it to the platform. Reporting a fake Facebook account is pretty straightforward and will allow the social networking giant to remove it. To report a fake Facebook account, you need to:

  • Go to the profile in question
  • Click on the three dots under the cover photo
  • Click on Find support or report profile
  • Select Pretending to be someone
  • Click on Report profile and check the box that says: I believe this violates the Facebook Community Standards.
  • Select Report then Finish.

The platform will send you a confirmation email. Facebook will then decide whether or not the reported account complies with its “Terms of Use” and whether to delete the account.

Has your own account been hacked? Read on to discover how to report identity theft on Facebook.

How do I report identity theft on Facebook?

To report identity theft on Facebook, you must

  • Go to the profile in question
  • Click on the three dots to the right, under the cover photo
  • Click on Find support or report profile
  • Select Pretending to be someone
  • State the account that has been impersonated
  • Click on Report profile and check I believe this violates the Facebook Community Standards.
  • Select Report then Finish.

If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can use this form. If you want to report someone impersonating you or a loved one on Messenger, you can follow this tutorial.

But that’s not all. Identity theft is a crime in France (article 226-4-1 of the penal code), punishable by one year of imprisonment and a €15,000 fine. As for fraud (article 313-1 of the penal code), it’s punishable by five years of imprisonment and a €375,000 fine. The fraudulent collection of personal data (article 226-18 of the penal code) can be punished by five years of imprisonment and a €300,000 fine.

As is the case with identity theft on Instagram, in addition to reporting your case to Facebook, you can file a complaint to the police or gendarmerie or write to the public prosecutor of the judicial court in your area.

Remember to keep evidence like screenshots of the account in question and URLs. If necessary, notify your bank, file a stop payment, or even get your identity papers renewed. Find out more about what to do about identity theft on the government website that deals with cyber malware.

What you should know about N26 on Facebook

  • N26 has a Facebook account for France. Here’s the URL of its unique profile: @N26FR.

As with its Instagram profile, N26’s Facebook profile is certified by Facebook and marked with a blue sticker. The logo and header of the profile are in our brand colors and reflect our visual identity. This account has been active for several years and quality content related to our brand is posted regularly—blog posts, images, links to our website, etc. A lot of our followers interact with us by liking our posts and commenting on them.

Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to verify the authenticity of a message:

  • N26 will never spontaneously contact you on social networks and Facebook.

N26 has a dedicated Customer Support team that can be reached from our social networks. However, our teams will never spontaneously contact you with a private message without you having contacted us first. So, if you receive a private message out of the blue from someone claiming to work for N26, never click on any links they send you. These very well may be phishing attempts aiming to steal your personal information.

  • N26 employees will never contact you from their personal Facebook account. 
  • N26 doesn’t offer credit, friend referrals, or job offers on Facebook. Be wary of any posts or private messages that might promise to provide these kinds of offers—and, more generally, of any communication in which the quality of the images or spelling isn’t up to scratch.

Similarly, be extremely cautious of scam attempts that can take the form of overly enticing financial product offers. This goes particularly for investment offers with very high interest rates.

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