Advance fee lottery scams – you know, those messages that claim that you’ve won a vast sum of money in some overseas lottery that you’ve never even heard of let alone actually entered – have been around since Noah was a lad. Of course, the lotteries aren’t real and the fabulous cash prizes are entirely imaginary. The messages are just a way of separating naive recipients from their money and personal information.
Back in the day, criminals sent out such scam messages via surface letters or even faxes. Later, email became a very effective way for criminals to distribute the scam messages. In fact, many such scams still arrive via email. And now, of course, advance fee scammers commonly use social media as well. And one of their favourite platforms is Facebook.
There are three main methods that advance fee scammers use to find new victims on Facebook.
1: You get a friend request from somebody you don’t know and, after you accept, the person claims to be a Facebook staff member with some fabulous news for you. The staff member claims that you have won a very large prize in a Facebook Lottery and should follow his or her instructions to begin the process of claiming your prize. The person may include a link to a Facebook Page that is supposedly connected to an official Facebook Lottery. But, of course, the person is not from Facebook and the linked lottery page is fraudulent.
2: You get a friend request from somebody you DO know. In fact, you thought you were already Facebook friends but you might believe that the person has unfriended you by mistake or some other glitch has occurred. After you accept the request, the ‘friend’ will claim that he or she has seen your name on a list of Facebook Lottery winners and urge you to contact a Facebook agent immediately to claim your prize. The ‘friend’ will claim that he or she has also won and has already received the cash windfall. The friend will give you the contact details for the agent and urge you to proceed as quickly as possible.
In reality the scammers have created a copy of your friend’s Facebook account – a tactic known as Facebook cloning – and are using it to pretend to be your friend.
In a variation of this scenario, the fake lottery messages may come from a friend’s account that has actually been hijacked by scammers via a phishing scam or other methods.
3: You receive a seemingly official email or personal message from Facebook that informs you that you have won a lottery prize. The messages will appear to be genuine because they come from a hijacked account that has been renamed and rebranded to make it appear that it is an official Facebook Lottery channel. Again, you will be instructed to contact an agent to claim your prize.
Regardless of how the scammers contact you, the underlying con is the same. If you comply and contact the agent you will be asked to send money to cover various fees supposedly associated with processing your win. The scammers will insist that these fees must be paid upfront and cannot be deducted from the prize money itself. The scammers will continue to ask for money until they have extracted all they can from you after which they will disappear without trace.
And, as the scam plays out, the criminals may trick you into supplying a large amount of your personal and financial information. They may be able to use this information to steal your identity.
Bottom line? There is no Facebook Lottery. Any message in any format that claims that you have won a large sum of money in a Facebook lottery or promotion is certain to be a scam.
If you have friends or family members that you feel might be vulnerable to this scam, please take the time to bring them up to speed.
Last updated: February 29, 2016
First published: November 13, 2015
By Brett M. Christensen