There’s no shortage of scammers lurking on social media, but a recent scam on Facebook may hit a little too close to its mark, especially at this time of year. As the holidays approach, it’s easy to fall victim to offers of free money, but this one is nothing but a fraud.

The Facebook Lottery Scam is certainly nothing new, but what makes this version different is the accompanying image of a certificate of authenticity made out to the recipient. In this version, which typically comes through private messages on Facebook, someone contacts you to let you know that you’ve won, and then informs you that you must show up in person to collect your winnings. When you reply that you can’t do that due to geographic limitations, you’re then offered the option to have the winnings shipped to you for an outrageous amount of money.

You might wonder how people can still fall for these online scams, but as the public has become more aware of it, the criminals have had to up their game in order to convince people to believe it. One of the methods for enticing people to play along is to use hacked friends’ accounts, meaning the award notice can look like it came from someone you know. Other attempts at convincing you this is real can involve using specific information about you, like your workplace or names of people you know, all of which is information that can easily be garnered from your Facebook profile, your previous posts, or your friends’ list.

This type of scam is so common that the FBI actually has a name for it: advance fee scam. That designation refers to any con game in which the victim is instructed to pay a fee in order to collect a prize, be hired for a job, or other similarly beneficial situation. If anyone ever offers you employment, a prize, or any other form of payoff in return for the recipient fronting some funds, it most likely falls into this category.

Unfortunately, not only is it nearly impossible to track down the culprit in advance fee scams that take place online, the victim often feels so ridiculous at being victimized that he or she never comes forward. By not alerting others to the scam, though, there are practically guaranteed to be more victims.

To avoid this type of crime, remember a few simple rules about online activity. First, never send money to anyone who contacts you online, no matter how enticing, alarming, heart-wrenching, or plausible the story. Next, keep in mind that no one has ever gotten rich from a lottery they didn’t enter in the first place. There is no such thing as money for nothing, and anyone who says otherwise is quite possibly out to steal from you.

 

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