Over the past several months I’ve noticed friends sharing fake posts on Facebook.
Generally, the posts will claim that an elderly person, child or dog is missing. Others will advertise a house for rent at a very low price.
And most people, being good-natured and wanting to help, pass these posts along without a second thought.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office recently shared a post from the page Know It Sooner Computer Training to warn residents of these scams.
Many of these posts are being published in local yard sale groups and similar community groups to reach a larger audience.
Whenever I see one of these, the first thing I do is click on the profile of the person who originally posted it. Usually, it appears the profile was only created within the past few days, or a month at the latest.
The profile will also sometimes be listed as a “health and beauty” page and the person will have very few, if any, friends or followers.
The post from Know it Sooner says that, after you share the post, the scammer can change it “And suddenly you are advertising weight loss products, or sunglasses, or rallies for politics you are not supporting …”
I recently witnessed one change from an alleged Silver Alert to a house for rent within a few minutes after notifying my friend that it was a scam post.
One scam profile, under the name “Karen Peters” has posted twice in the group Aynor/Conway, SC For Sale or Trade.
One post is a plea to help find her missing niece, alleging that an Amber Alert has been issued.
The other is looking for someone to rent her grandparents’ three-bedroom home claiming no down payment, and available for Section 8. It also includes a link to apply. (I didn’t click it to see where it goes out of fear of compromising my work computer or phone.)
The rental price for the house is $470 per month.
That should be a dead giveaway.
A three-bedroom mobile home in Conway is currently up for $1,150. A search of several real estate websites show the going rate for a comparable home shown in the post is $1,700-$2,400 per month.
The missing girl post has been shared 52 times, the house post was shared 16 times.
I’ve seen multiple variations of the house post, often tailored to fit the location — but the basic premise is the same.
The profile — which appears at first to be a personal page but turns out to be a “business page — has the same photo as both the profile and banner pic, and was created Aug. 31.
Several Facebook users have gone to the profile and commented that it’s a scam.
Page transparency is probably one of the only good things Facebook has done lately.
Know It Sooner goes on to mention that comments will often be turned off and warns that the scammers could potentially hack into your Facebook account.
I’ll add that several of my Facebook friends have been hacked. So if someone you know sends a message and starts asking for money, especially hundreds of dollars, double check with a mutual friend just to make sure.
And before sharing that missing person, dog or house rental post, please do your due diligence and make sure it’s legit first.
Award-winning journalist William R. Toler is managing editor of the Richmond Observer.