We've all seen heart-wrenching stories on Facebook about missing pets or children. It's natural to want to help by sharing these posts with your friends. However, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that sharing such posts can actually put your social media friends at risk of falling victim to scams.

Before you get to tears or a sob story, don't be surprised if these accounts change their content to something deceptive.


Scammers know that we trust our friends

Scammers know that we tend to trust content shared by our friends. They capitalize on this trust by stealing photos of kids or pets and posting them in groups or with random users in hopes the bait will work.

Eventually, what used to be missing/hurt pets or kids is a post about homes from real estate ads to create housing or rental scams. They alter the shared posts, initially alerts about missing pets or children, to deceive people. These scams prey on our emotions and use tactics like urgency to lure unsuspecting victims.

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Maybe your friends fell victim to the scam because of YOU

It could start with you, Your friends think you recommended the content. But you didn't. When you share a post, your friends see a different version than what you saw. Scammers alter the original post to mislead others into thinking you vouched for the content.

This puts your friends at risk of falling for rental scams or divulging personal information that can be used for identity theft. The BBB has reported cases where a post about a missing dog was later turned into an enticing rental pitch for a too-good-to-be-true property deal.


Ways to spot the bait-and-switch scam posts

To protect yourself and your friends from falling for these scams, the BBB offers some useful tips:

  1. Examine the profile of the person who created and shared the original post. Look for inconsistencies, such as a profile from one location sharing a post in a group based in a different location.
  2. Check how long the person has been a member of the group. Scammers often create new profiles after their old ones get banned.
  3. Question the suddenness of the post and whether the information has been reported in the news. Be wary of posts alerting you to troubling news that you haven't heard or read about elsewhere.
  4. Perform a reverse image search on Google to check if the pictures used in the post have been used in other ads or websites in different cities.
  5. Verify the rental property by searching the address on multiple websites. If it's listed for sale on one website but for rent on another, it's likely a red flag.
  6. Copy and paste the text from the post into the Facebook search tool to see if identical or similar posts have been made in the past.

Check out this video by Rockford realtor Kim Geddes:

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Using data from the BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report, Stacker identified the most common and costly types of scams in 2022.

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