The 8 Top Facebook Messenger Scams of 2020 (and How to Avoid Them)

Be aware of what Facebook Messenger scams look like

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Since scammers aren't having as much success with email phishing scams, they're turning toward Facebook Messenger to try and separate Facebook users from their money. Here are the top Facebook Messenger scams threatening Facebook users.

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Account Violation Scams

Screenshot of authentic Facebook account violation notification

Whenever someone does something on Facebook that goes against community standards, they'll receive a message stating their account has been found in violation.

The way scammers capitalize on this is by creating a fake Facebook account that looks like an official Facebook profile. They then send users a message saying the account has been found in violation of their terms of service.

How you know the message is fake:

  • You haven't received the message at the email address you've registered with Facebook.
  • The profile the message comes from looks unusual and features very few details.
  • The wording of the message features broken English and poor grammar.
  • Account violation notices from Facebook come in the Support Center, not in Facebook Messenger.

How to protect yourself: The most important thing to keep in mind when you see a message like this is to ignore it and never provide your Facebook password to the scammer as requested.

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Romance Scams

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Many people use Facebook as a place to meet new, potential romantic partners. Scammers know this, so they create a fake Facebook profile featuring someone very attractive, then reach out to single Facebook users in the hopes of striking up a fake romantic relationship.

After building the relationship virtually through Facebook messenger, the scammer will start asking for money. The reasons for money include anything from divorce costs, moving expenses to come see you, or they'll pretend to be in a crisis and need your help.

How you know the message is fake:

  • The profiles have very few posts and no significant identifying information.
  • Messages have broken English or poor grammar.
  • The conversation starts based on a relationship, but then turns to a request for money before long.
  • The scam artist will always come up with excuses why they can never meet in person.

How to protect yourself: If you've never met your romantic partner in person, never send them anything of any financial value.

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Lottery Scams

Image of a person seeing a lottery winning notification

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Another common Facebook Messenger scam is the lottery scam. This scam usually comes from a cloned Facebook account that appears to be someone you know. However, sometimes it comes from a stranger claiming to be the operator of the lottery program.

The scammer will tell you they've discovered you're the winner of a lottery. They say they'll send you the money, but first you need to send a fee to cover certain management "expenses" involved in processing your winnings. To process the fee, the scammer will usually ask you for credit card or bank account details.

The end result will be the scammer emptying the funds in your account and you'll never see a dime.

How to protect yourself: Never transmit credit card or bank account details via Facebook Messenger no matter how authentic the message appears to be.

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Donation Scams

Image of a sign alerting charity fraud

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For this scam, instead of cloning accounts of your friends, the criminals will clone accounts to look like they come from well known religious leaders or even celebrities. Still, in other cases, the cloned accounts appear to come from people who run well known charities.

The donation scam is simple. The scam artist will send you a message asking if you're willing to donate to their charity.

Many people who care about the cause of the fake charity will actually provide their bank account or credit card details to the scam artist. Instead of donating money, people end up having their credit card or bank account drained of all funds.

How to protect yourself: Just like with lottery scams, never transmit financial account details on Facebook. If you want to donate to a charity, contact the charity directly by phone and make your donation.

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Inheritance Scams

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To play out this scam, criminals will create fake accounts to appear as though they're a lawyer or the head of a legal organization. The scam artist will tell you a deceased person you know has left you an inheritance of some size.

The catch is you'll need to provide either personal information like your social security number, or even your bank account details.

This is nothing more than a different approach to the aforementioned plans. The scam artist simply wants access to information that'll let them steal your money.

How to protect yourself: While it may be tempting to provide your details so you can get your inheritance, this situation is always too good to be true. Inheritance lawyers will never reach out on Facebook, and inheritance notifications always arrive as certified letters via the U.S. Post Office.

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Loan Scams

Image of a person frustrated with a loan scam

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To conduct the loan Facebook Messenger scam, scam artists will usually start by cloning the account of one of your friends.

They'll then either post on a Group page or send you a direct message saying they've discovered a page where you can get an instant loan with a very low interest rate, complete with a link to the web page.

If you visit the page, it will attempt to convince you to pay a modest advanced fee in order to qualify for the loan.

How to protect yourself: Even if such information comes from a friend, never provide your bank information on any unknown website. Stick to applying for low interest loans at banks you already know.

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Free Money Scams

Image of money in an envelope exchanging hands

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Even more enticing than the cheap loan scams are messages scam artists send claiming there's a government grant or a company giveaway you qualify for. The scam artist will usually direct you to a fake site encouraging you to enter your credit card or bank account information.

Just like other scams, the only thing that will happen if you submit your information is your account will be drained of all funds.

How to protect yourself: Never provide your bank information on any unknown website. If you want to apply to a government grant, do so on the government website directly. You'll know it's office if the url ends in .gov.

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Compromising Video Scam

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A much more recent Facebook Messenger scam showing up on Facebook is the compromising video scam. This is where a scammer will either hack into or clone one of your friend's Facebook accounts, then send you a message saying they've spotted you in a compromising YouTube video.

The message will read something like this:

“Hey! What are u doing in this video lol! Search you're name and skip to 2:43 on the video. Type in browser with no spaces: [Web address removed]”

Usually, the link will ask you to log into your Facebook account to see the video. Doing this gives the scammers access to your Facebook account, which they'll then use to scam your friends into giving up their Facebook password as well.

How to protect yourself: Never enter your Facebook login details into any website other than Facebook.

If You've Already Been Scammed

If you've been a victim of any of these scams, immediately take the following actions: