Category: Internet (Page 1 of 8)

Commonplace Facebook Scams

There is no end to the scams I see on Facebook. I know I’ve posted at length about specific FB scams, but in this post, I want to run down quickly on a bunch of commonplace Facebook scams. Watch out for these, don’t fall for these, definitely report these:

(Don’t) Buy This Shirt!

This offer may tug at your heartstrings, because they’ve mentioned their son is autistic. But there is no son, and the poster is from another country. The URL will take you to a web-storefront, where you can pay money for a shirt. But it’s at an online marketplace where anyone can quickly open up a shop and have shirts printed:

commonplace facebook scams

You might actually get a (lousy) shirt, but please realize that you’re giving your card info to a stranger who may be halfway around the world. The big risk here is getting mystery charges on your card, later on.

Neon for Free

Want a neon sign? You’re not going to get one from these jokers. Their plan is to privately message you, gently guilt you towards making a small donation, and then disappear with any money you’ve sent them.

Vendor Fee for Non-Existent Fair

Looking to sell your hand-crafted art in your region? Community fairs and festivals are the way to go, but beware generic scam posts as shown below.

While at first glance, these may look legitimate, it’s a lie and a trap. The poster has used Google to find an address commonly used for public events. Any email or phone number provided is not connected to the stated address; they go straight to the scammer. They’ve crafted this post so that people will contact the scammer and not the venue. And if you contact the scammer, they’ll take your “reservation fee” and disappear with it.

Egg Sales

I’ve picked this scam apart before, but it deserves a mention, since I’ve seen it often this month. It’s similar to the above scam, in that they want to privately message you and get an advance payment for eggs. But you’ll be sitting by the door waiting forever for that henfruit. The poster is just using a sock puppet account, as they sit in an internet cafe in Kenya.

Giving Away a Gaming Console

Those PS5’s are super-expensive, so seeing someone giving away one for free on Facebook may seem like a miracle. And even more convincing is to see someone local, someone believable!, posting about how you can have their unwanted video game hardware:

But this type of scam is usually carried out using a stolen Facebook account. If you contact them for the console, they’ll say that they moved to another state, but can Fedex the device to you, as long as you cover their shipping. Once again, if you send them any money, they’ll ghost you and you’ll never get anything in return.

Moving, Everything Must Go

If a real person has to move and sell off a lot of stuff, they’ll give you an address to visit, and a phone number to reach them at. But some posts only lead to private messages, where you are urged to pay a small amount to “hold” the item for you. I think by now you know what’ll happen if you give them any money.

And other “moving” posts lead you to other weird websites or private Facebook groups, where you’ll meet with other scams and attempts at collecting your personal information.

Fake Job Listing

If you think you’ve found your dreamjob on Facebook, think again. Many of them are traps:

A real job listing should state a well-known company name, and will refer you to or some other corporate website. This scam job listing has no real contact info, and will only lead to a fake job interview over chat, and then they’ll try to get your bank account info or worse.

Telltale Signs of a Facebook Scam

  • The poster has a locked account, or has turned off Comments to their post.
  • They need you to pay them a little bit of money first, to prove that you are not scamming them!
  • They won’t meet you in person for a transaction.
  • You cannot call to speak with them.
  • They want you to use Venmo or CashApp instead of a credit card.
  • You meet with resistance when asking for basic info, like a website URL or address or phone number.
  • They comment a link to a website, but the URL shows a Google sites address, or something that just doesn’t look relevant.

Saturn Concerns

saturn concerns

Folks are asking me to sound off on the Saturn app. If you have Saturn concerns, please consider this blog post:

The Saturn App

Saturn is an iOS app, intended for high school students. Saturn can help kids manage their schedules, and it also has social media functions, too. Teen users may enjoy using Saturn to announce their activities, coordinate with their peers, share their schedules and communicate quickly with their schoolmates. Students are allowed to input user photos and other personal info, as well as link to their other social media accounts (TikTok, Snapchat, even Venmo).

Saturn has been around since 2018, and was started by a couple of college kids. But they acquired a significant chunk of money from Jeff Bezos, Ashton Kutcher and other investors, and their company took off. The app seems to be popular and work very well, but shows no signs of arriving on the Android scene…

Saturn Concerns

In past and present years, parents and school officials have raised concerns over Saturn. Does this app expose our kids to online threats? How bad are the risks for letting my children onto this app? Should we limit or ban this app?

These questions are legitimate. Sharing personal info online always carries some amount of risk. But let’s not make snap decisions about it. If Saturn concerns you, I’d like you to learn more about the app, consider the current state of its security, and make your own personal judgment call on it.

One worrisome piece of news emerged this month, from a parent who claimed he’d installed the app and crossed some privacy boundaries with it. He said that by fudging some sign-up data, he was able to see other students’ schedules and pictures. This parent didn’t want to do anything harmful! He was instead demonstrating the lax security of the app, and encouraging more mindfulness about our teenagers’ online safety. Thank you, sir!

In response to this news, Saturn developers quickly changed the app, and announced their security improvements. It was no longer possible to do what the concerned parent had done. Presently, Saturn users have a stricter sign-up and verification process. If you don’t “get verified“, you can still use the app for calendaring, but verified users and their data will not be shown to any unverified users.

Testing the New Security

So I did similar to that concerned parent. I installed the app and tried to use it, even though I do not have a highschooler in my home. Here’s what I encountered:

Saturn asked for my birthdate. I lied. I put in some DOB that suggested I was 40-something years old. It accepted it and moved on.

The next requirement was my mobile number. I had to give it a way of texting me an access code. So I cooperated and then Saturn welcomed me in. But I would not have gotten any further without giving it a real textable number.

Then I immediately set about trying to see other people’s info. Could I see someone else’s calendar? Could I start chatting with other students? No, I met with these screens:

I tried to get verified as if I were a student. The next screen asked me to sign in with my school email. I didn’t have one of those, but I sure have plenty of Microsoft and Google emails, so I tried using some of those. Saturn quickly rebuked me:

At this point, I stopped trying to gain access. For me to penetrate these defenses, it was pretty clear I would have to go beyond the pale. I would have to compromise other systems in order to gain access to Saturn’s sensitive info. Stopping here, I could only see and use my own calendar space in the Saturn app.

Summary Judgment

Take all of this with a grain of salt. I cannot possibly advise every parent on how to best run their household and their technology. Please take what you want from all of this and use it any way you see fit.

I look at Saturn and I see some amount of risk. I look at all online social apps that way. Sharing personal info of any kind on the internet can be both useful and hazardous. Rather than admonish people to never do it, I have to be more practical and urge you to be mindful of where and when you do it.

Mindful = judgmental. When I judge Saturn, with just this small amount of testing and probing, I think it’s got some good security in place. Is it perfect? No, a determined bad guy could get in and cause harm. But that goes for any social-technology construct. Facebook. Snapchat. Discord. When I start comparing Saturn against all of the other apps that I see young people using, I judge Saturn to have above-average security. My opinion is that your teens are in far more danger using Facebook and Instagram. It is far easier to game the system and cause harm on the other platforms we use.

Whether you allow or prevent your teen from using Saturn is up to you. But after you make that choice, I encourage you to think about all of the other ways your son or daughter uses the internet. We can’t afford to be hyper-focused on one app with the larger issue of Internet Safety looming over our heads. There are many online resources to keep your child educated and safe on the internet. Perhaps the Saturn app is here to deliver a teachable moment amongst the many lessons in your child’s digital upbringing.

Mobile Broadband

wireless broadband

When shopping for internet service, you may have plenty of options: Cable, Fiber, Fixed Wireless, Satellite, DSL. But one oft-overlooked option needs to be included: Mobile Broadband. This home internet service is powered over the airwaves and through the same towers as your cellular phones. Consider these options from the big cellular companies:

T-Mobile Home Internet

AT&T Internet Air

Verizon Home Internet

If you have terrestrial options for internet service, you may want to stick with them. But the new residential mobile broadband service can be a moneysaver/lifesaver for people in rural, underserved areas. If you are suffering under super-slow DSL, or flaky satellite internet service, or high-priced Starlink, the above options are worth considering!

But mobile broadband is not available everywhere. The first step for anyone considering this type of internet is to talk with the provider. Visit a T-MO, ATT or VZ store and have them check your address. They’ll let you know if your residence is serviceable.

When someone signs up for mobile broadband service, the provider sends a Wi-Fi modem, as shown above. The user plugs it in, uses an app to setup the household Wi-Fi, and then starts connecting the household computers and devices. It’s usually pretty streamlined and easy. And their Wi-Fi modem serves as a regular router, allowing you to connect multiple computers, streaming devices, printers, etc..

These home internet options are not as blazing fast as cable or fiber, but they should be significantly better than DSL. If you investigate this type of internet, make sure to ask the provider what type of speeds they think you’ll get in your area. They can vary wildly from one region to the next.

The Facebook Edited-Post Scam

Anyone who posts to Facebook can edit what they’ve posted. You simply go to the post and click the 3-dots button in the corner, and then select Edit Post. It’s a pretty handy tool, but it’s also being abused in what we can call The Facebook Edited-Post Scam.

Innocent Beginning

The scams starts with some harmless-looking posts, usually appearing in Facebook groups. Here are some examples:

These posts don’t seem to ask for much, so they aren’t likely to trigger your spidey-sense for scams. Sometimes they ask that you care & share, others just encourage you to comment with “Got It!” And many people do what is asked, and then move on.

The Switcheroo

But some time later, the scam develops. After the post has been spread through multiple Shares, and/or after many people have commented “Got it” underneath, the scammer makes a big change. Using the Edit Post function, the bad guy deletes the photo of the hurt dog or missing kid, and inserts something altogether different. They also delete the original text and enter in new verbiage:

The benefit (to the scammers) here is that the post retains all of its comments and Shares. That lost puppy post has metamorphosed into a money-lure scam, that has been shared to many other groups and still has many positive comments underneath it. It can really look convincing!

But please know that all of these things are scams. If you interact with the posting account, they will strive to steal money from you. Please don’t play their game. Report them and their posts to Facebook and the group admin or moderator.

How to Defend Against These Scams

One good thing is that you can check for the switcheroo-edit. Remember the 3-dots button in the corner of each post? Click that and select Edit History. That reveals any and all changes that have been made to the post. It becomes very obvious, if you know to use this tool.

That 3-dots button also holds your reporting functions. You can first report the post to Facebook, but don’t expect much of a response. Their bots usually get back to me to state that they saw nothing wrong with the post. What’s most important is that you report the post to the people in charge of the Facebook Group. Those mods and admins are usually good people who care about the group, and will yank the post once they get your report.

If you are in a group where the moderators do NOT fulfill their duties, leave the group. You will know when this is the case, because the group will appear to be overrun with scammy posts! Sure, you can report the group to Facebook, but they will not respond. Your best bet is to save yourself and not be a part of that chaos.

If you’ve accidentally Liked, Shared or Commented on a Facebook Edited-Post Scam, try to undo that action. You can always unLike a post and delete a comment or Share. Having trouble finding what you’ve been doing on Facebook? Use the Activity Log to locate your Likes, Comments and more. And if you see that a friend has interacted with a scammy post, reach out to them to let them know. Encourage them to undo their actions, so that they’re not contributing to the spread or success of the scam.

Last thing: When someone tells you to what to share or type on Facebook, be suspicious. Share and comment what you want to, not when a stranger pushes you to.

The Facebook Location Tracking Settlement

The Facebook Location Tracking Settlement

Here we go with another Meta-related settlement! The Facebook Location Tracking Settlement is your chance to sign up for a piece of the money that settles this latest lawsuit.

Once again, Facebook is in trouble for tracking its users when it shouldn’t have. For this case, Facebook stands accused of tracking people who had “Location Services” turned off on their phone or in the Facebook app. Purportedly, Meta continued tracking its users using other information (IP addresses, etc.). As in other settlements, Facebook is paying money to resolve things, admitting no fault or wrongdoing.

You can visit this website for all the information about the Facebook Location Tracking Settlement. Or you can use this link to fill out your claim straightaway.

But please know: Some people are reporting that they can’t submit their claim right now. After typing in all of their info, this vague message appears:

No, I didn't make any errors on the Claim Form.

If you receive this error, bookmark the claim website (or this blog post) and try again another day. They may still be working out the kinks, and you have until August 11, 2023 to get your claim submitted. Or you could print, fill out, and mail their paper claim form.

Facebook Winner Scams

I imagine most of you have encountered Facebook Winner Scams by now. These posts usually show an eye-catching puzzle, and suggest that if you have the answer, you can comment or PM the poster for some free money. Again, this is a scam.

Facebook winner scams

Using a stolen Facebook account, the scammer is looking for trusting or naive people to contact them. They’ll ask for your CashApp or Zelle account, as if they are going to send you some cash. That’s the ruse. If you cooperate with them, they’re ready to confuse the situation and trick you into exposing your funds.

Do not fall for this and do not reveal your CashApp or other payment account information to these people! Report Facebook Winner Scams to Facebook and the Facebook Group Admin.

After reading one of these sus posts, I had to check things out a little further. Using a sock puppet account, I contacted this scammer:

They clicked my fake CashApp link, which immediately showed me that they were in Lagos, Nigeria. Then I asked them about their location. They responded with a bad word in Yoruba and then blocked me.

An Even Sneakier Variant

Sometimes the scammer alters the post to make this scheme even harder to spot. How this scam works is:

  1. The scammer posts the silly puzzle, telling everyone to search for the hidden item in the picture, and they ask everyone to comment “Got it!” when they find something.
  2. They wait for the comments of “Got it!” to pile up under the post.
  3. They edit the original post, to say something different and show a new photo. The edited info says how you can visit a website for free money or financial aid.

This scam-variant is especially tricky, as the altered post retains the comments from earlier. It shows a lot of replies — from real people, possibly people you know — commenting “Got it!” to this new fake offer for cash. To a trusting first-time viewer, it may appear that all of their friends are truly getting free money.

If you see this, don’t believe it, and definitely report the post. And you might reach out to anyone you recognize in the comments. You can let them know that they might want to delete their comments and report the post, too.

Big Tech Status Websites

big tech status websites

Even the biggest tech companies have outages and service failures. If your email or website is on the fritz, it may not be your fault. If iCloud or MS Teams won’t load, it could be their problem to fix. Bookmark this post or any of the Big Tech Status Websites below, so that you can check them at the first sign of trouble.

Microsoft Service Health – relevant to, Teams, OneDrive, Skype and more

Apple System Status – ranging from iCloud to AppleTV+, from Siri to MacOS Updates and many, many more

Google Workspace Status Dashboard – pertaining to Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs and various other consumer apps

Meta Status and Outages – covering Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and related APIs

As I find other useful big tech status websites, I’ll add them to this post.

Follow a Post on Facebook

Sometimes, you see a post on Facebook that you want to track, want to see how the comments turn out. But you don’t have anything to add to the post, yet. Please know that there’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to follow a post on Facebook.

The Wrong Way is to put a comment on the post that says “Following”. Or submit a comment with a single period in it. Please don’t do that. When you comment on a Facebook post, it sends a notification to countless people, and they will react to the alert and open the post, only to see the useless comment. This can be an unnecessary distraction for people all over.

The Right Way is a hidden function, that Facebook made expressly for this! When you find a post that you want to keep tabs on, click the 3-dots button to its upper-right. Then click “Turn on notifications for this post.”

Follow a Post on Facebook

Now you’ll get a FB alert for any future comments on that post. And when you follow a Facebook post in this way, no one is alerted to you using it.

Service Scams on Facebook

I have previously blogged about all of the duct cleaning scams on Facebook. And while I’ve gone on at length about that particular scam, it seems that duct cleaning scams are just the tip of the iceberg. There are a myriad of service scams on Facebook. Here’s what I’ve been studying and want you to know about:

Various Types of Service Scams

The service scams on Facebook come in different flavors. You might encounter:

How These Scams Play Out

These scams are carried out differently from other tech operations. Services scams on Facebook can actually result in service! Whether you ask for your ducts or your cars to be cleaned, the scammer will schedule with you (over Facebook Messenger), and someone will come to your address.

But the problems occur after the person arrives. Someone who has gone through with the contracted service might notice:

  • The service was not performed well, or the worker made mistakes and damaged things.
  • The work provided was carried out without proper licensing or insurance.
  • The bill presented was significantly more than the estimate or proposal.
  • Service was paid for, and problems with it were discovered later. Requests for follow-up were ignored, and the scammer later blocked the victim on Messenger.
  • Extra charges were made to the credit card without warning.

Protip: When hiring anyone for services, know the name of company you’re dealing with. When they arrive, that company name should be evident, either on their vehicle or on business cards/printed materials or their uniforms. If you’ve hired a company, but the worker at your door can’t name that company, something fishy is going on.

Why I Call This a Scam

Sometimes people actually get acceptable service from one of these Facebook posts. This being the case, you might argue: Is this really a scam? Or is it just luck of the draw, whether you get a good service provider or a bad one? I say it is a scam, and here’s my take on it:

The Facebook posts for duct cleaning or car detailing are deceptive. No company name is offered. The posting account is designed to show an American-looking name and a good-looking North American person or couple. They claim to be new in your town and just starting up a business. But it is all a charade. Everything is arranged using sock puppet accounts.

I’ve chatted with several of these service-scammers, to learn more about their schemes. I’ve sent some IP logging links to them, and for those that click, it typically shows me that they are in Pakistan. If I point this out to them, they block me instantly.

Ultimately, all of this deception puts you the consumer at risk. When you hire one of these service-scammers, you are paying money to some untraceable agent halfway around the world. S/he refers the job to someone in America, who then appears at your door to perform the task. And because the worker is not connected to a local or licensed employer, any of the aforementioned problems could occur. And should you call the police, the worker and the Facebook scammer are ready to vanish. All consequences will be evaded.

How to Recognize and Avoid These Scams

These scam Facebook offers can closely resemble legitimate service posts. It can be tricky to discern the crooks from the honest people trying to make a living. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Ask for the company name, phone number and website. Legitimate service providers will offer this as soon as you ask, if not sooner. Scammers will be cagey and dodge your question, or just give you an out-of-area number.
  • Nowadays, scammers use great English! But there are still “tells”. If they type “kindly” in a sentence, or if the language feels a bit off, ask if you can call their office to schedule, or simply move on.
  • Select and copy (Ctrl+C) the first sentence or two from their post. Then, click into the search field that Facebook offers. Paste (Ctrl+V) the verbiage from the post and see what turns up in search results. Many scam posts are duplicated all over the country, and this tactic quickly exposes many FB scams.
  • Look at the Facebook account that posted the offer. If the profile is Locked, then they are not from the USA, as that option is unavailable in America. If the account has many friends from other parts of the world, then that account may not be from a local. And scammers often click Like their own photos, so that should be another tip-off.
  • Find your needed services through personal referrals. Your friends and neighbors are unlikely to steer you towards one of these questionable outfits.

Other Dos & Don’ts

If you recognize a Facebook post as a scam, report it! Click the 3-dots next to the post and use the Report options to report it, first to Facebook and then also to the admin of the FB group. Just, don’t get your hopes up about Facebook’s response.

When paying for any kind of service, a credit card is best and protects you the most. Debit card transactions often cannot be reversed, and Cash App/Venmo/Paypal may not be able to help much after you’ve paid someone.

Microsoft Support Alert Scams

Microsoft Support Alert scams are very common on the internet. Please review these details, in case you meet one. Foreknowledge will help you avoid becoming a victim!

What This Scam Looks Like

Support Alert scams appear as you surf the internet or open email. They are a type of pop-up, but don’t present like an advertisement. Check out this screencap of a recent support alert scam:

Microsoft Support Alert Scams

You can also safely see it in action this YouTube video. But there are some other critical details to this scam when it appears:

  • A loud tone may play, followed by a robotic voice. It may announce alarming things, like “Your computer has been locked”, “Do not shut off your computer”, or “Your identity has been compromised”.
  • All other windows that were open may be hidden and inaccessible.
  • The mouse cursor may disappear.
  • The X buttons and other elements will not respond to clicks or keyboard entry.

How You Might Meet this Scam

Here are some examples of how and when you might be accosted by this particular scam:

  • Clicking on a Sponsored Post or Ad on Facebook
  • Viewing a Celebrity Death Hoax article on social media
  • Visiting a Sponsored link or deceptive website from search engine results
  • Misspelling or mistyping a URL in the browser address bar
  • Clicking a link sent to you in a spam email or unexpected private message/text

Microsoft Support Alerts also originate from adware and malware installed on a computer. If this scam pops up frequently, then the computer may be infected!

What to Do When You Meet This Scam

Many people encounter this scam and feel helpless. The mouse doesn’t respond, the ‘X’ buttons do nothing, and the robovoice is urgently insisting to call the number before doomsday begins. But this is all part of the psychological ploy to get the victim to make the wrong choice (calling the number leads to an immediate remote control scam). Never call the number shown on these messages. Here are the right things to do:

  • Turn down your speakers, if the noise is too much for you.
  • Press CTRL + ALT + DEL on your keyboard, and then click the power icon to the lower-right. Choose Restart.
  • Or, press AND HOLD the power button on the computer, until it turns off. Let go of the power button and press it again to turn the machine back on.
  • When your computer is power back up, open your browser and see if you can use the internet normally again, but do NOT click Restore Pages, if asked. If you click Restore, you will resurrect the scam popups!

The messages on-screen may specifically tell you to not turn off your machine, but that is part of the scheme. Please do not believe it. Rebooting the computer is key to getting away from this scam!

How to Protect Against This Menace

This type of scam is powered by basic web pop-ups, so most antivirus programs won’t help. But there are other tactics & tools to lessen the likelihood of seeing this pop up:

  • Install an ad-blocker in your default browser. I like AdBlockPlus best.
  • Install Trafficlight in your default browser to reduce bad results in your searches.
  • Consider using FB Purity, if you spend a lot of time on Facebook.
  • Go into your browser notifications settings, and select “Don’t allow sites to send notifications”.
  • Resist clicking on any salacious news items, lotteries & giveaways or offers that are too-good-to-be-true.
  • Never click links in spam (email, texts, private messages).
  • Be careful when typing in any URL from scratch, as cybersquatters are ready to capitalize on your typos.

Despite all of these protections, you may still see a Microsoft Support Alert scam on your system someday. The creators of this are devious and determined to get around all barriers, and get better at their efforts everyday. So be ready to reboot, and you’ll be OK!

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