Posts

  • Facebook and Instagram users are being targeted by cybercriminals promoting fake grants, particularly grants for COVID-19 relief. Recent grant scams reported to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) include requests for gift cards to “pay the taxes” if the grant is approved. 
  • The messages come from cloned accounts or hacked profiles of one of the user’s real Facebook or Instagram friends.  
  • Anyone receiving a message about a grant via Facebook, Instagram, phone, or text message should report it.  
  • If anyone wants to learn more about the Facebook grant scam or believes they are a victim, they should contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

While Facebook grant scams have been around for a while, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen a spike in calls and live-chats around this type of scam, particularly a new version that targets people in need of money due to hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The grant scam is not just circulating on Facebook. ITRC advisors have also received cases from victims who claim they were targeted on other social media platforms, including Instagram, owned by Facebook. 

Who is the Target 

Facebook users appear to be the primary target. However, other social media platforms like Instagram are beginning to see similar scams. The BBB reports that scammers are also creating versions of the Facebook grant scam to target people by phone and text message.   

What is the Scam 

Cybercriminals attack social media accounts or create lookalike accounts to target friends, family members, or other people trusted by the impacted account owner. Once the account has been compromised, the criminals message the friend telling them about a government grant. 

Some of the recent grant names the ITRC has seen are the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant, the RWCB grant, the Federal Government Empowerment grant and the Publisher’s Clearinghouse (PCH) Fee Government grant. The victims are then told to call a phone number about the grant and are asked to fill out a form that includes one’s Social Security number (SSN) and Driver’s License (DL) information before the grant is approved. The “friend” may claim they have already applied for the grant and received the funds. 

ITRC advisors say, right now, the most common reports of the Facebook grant scam evolve around phony grants for COVID-19 relief. The ITRC also continues to see Facebook grant scams where scammers ask for gift cards to “pay their taxes” associated with an approved grant. 

What They Want 

Scammers are looking to escape with the victim’s money, their personal information, or both to commit other identity crimes. 

How You Can Avoid Being Scammed 

  • If you receive a Facebook message from a friend regarding a grant opportunity, chances are it is a scam. Do not respond or provide any personal information. 
  • Inform your friend that their Facebook or Instagram account might be hacked or cloned. A big red flag is if you receive a new friend request from an existing friend and receive a direct or private message about a grant opportunity. 
  • Report the grant scam to FacebookInstagram, or other social media platforms where you receive the fraudulent grant message. Once you’ve reported the scam, delete the message. 
  • Never pay any money for a “free” government grant. A government entity will not ask you to pay a processing fee or taxes for a grant you were awarded, especially in a social media message. 

If you believe you are a victim of a Facebook grant scam or would like to learn more, contact the ITRC Center toll-free. You can call (888.400.5530) or use the live-chat function on the company website. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.   

*Originally posted December 2015. Updated as of December 14, 2020.

  • Facebook users have recently been receiving messages about winning a “Christmas bonus.” These messages are scams. 
  • The messages come from cloned accounts of one of the user’s real Facebook friends.  
  • If anyone receives a message about a Christmas bonus on Facebook, they should ignore it. If it comes from the Facebook page or someone they know, they should alert them that their Facebook has been hacked or cloned. People should also consider reporting it to Facebook.  
  • If anyone wants to learn more about the Facebook Christmas bonus scam or believes they are a victim, they should contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website. 
One user alerted others and pointed to the ITRC for free assistance

Facebook users have been targeted by scammers offering a “Christmas bonus” or a “Christmas Benefit.” The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has spotted multiple Facebook Christmas bonus scam posts warning others of the scam.      

Who is the Target 

Facebook users; social media profiles

What is the Scam 

Example of Christmas bonus

Facebook users receive messages from individuals in their contact lists about winning a “Christmas bonus.” The messages are coming from the cloned accounts of friends, and they state that the individual has won a Facebook Christmas Bonus Giveaway. The targeted victim is then directed to contact a “Facebook Agent,” who will send a message that the winning is a random contest sponsored by Powerball.

The scammers will then ask for personal information to deliver the winnings. They may also ask for a small “transfer fee” to transfer the money into the victim’s account. Once the victim gives them their money or their personal information, the scammers disappear and do not award the “bonus.” Facebook Christmas bonus scams can use various tactics from scam to scam. However, they all are after the same thing. 

“Christmas Bonus Cash Guarantee” Facebook page targeting vulnerable populations

What They Want 

Personal information or direct payment 

How You Can Avoid Being Scammed 

  • If you receive a Facebook message stating that you have won something, chances are it is a scam. Do not respond.  
  • Delete the message and inform your friend that their Facebook account might be hacked or cloned. 
  • Report the Facebook Christmas bonus scam to Facebook 

If you believe you are a victim of a Facebook Christmas bonus scam or would like to learn more, contact the ITRC Center toll-free. You can call (888.400.5530) or use the live-chat function on the company website. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.