BBB: Be on the lookout for ‘bait-and-switch’ lost pet, child schemes on Facebook

Warning over popular Facebook posts that become scams
Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 9:36 AM EST
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CROMWELL, CT (WFSB) - Posts about lost pets or children on Facebook may not be what they claim.

The Connecticut Better Business Bureau sought to warn Facebook users about a scam that involves users sharing posts about injured or lost pets, or missing children.

After users share the post, a scammer changes the original post to a deceptive rental ad or a link that points to a survey that “guarantees” a cash prize.

Now, those users’ friends think they have recommended that now-sketchy content.

The BBB said these bait-and-switch ads aim to either get a deposit for a rental property before the user gets a chance to see the home- or get users’ personal information, which could lead to identity theft.

The scheme has many variations, but the commonality is the emotionality or urgency of the message that encourages concerned people to share the news with their friends, according to the BBB.

“These posts are shared in local buy-and-sell groups because there is already a sense of community and trust within these crowds, and people may not realize that scammers are targeting members,” the organization said.

Scammers sometimes also turn comments off on the posts so other group members can’t oust them.

“We are seeing a lot of these posts in those local buy and sell groups. People have a sense of community in these groups. There’s a sense of trust. And they don’t realize that scammers can actually infiltrate those groups,” said Kristin Johnson with the Connecticut Business Bureau.

Johnson explained how the scam works.

“The original poster, a scammer changes it to a rental ad. And because you are sharing it with your friends and your friends trust you. If you have a friend that is looking for a rental property, they may say hey, this must be something I should look into because my friend posted it and next thing you know they are giving their personal information over to a scammer or they are putting down a deposit for a rental,” Johnson said.

Johnson said people need to research before they just immediately share.

She said noticing the language is the same on many posts is an obvious sign.

The BBB recommended the following:

  • Do a bit of digging before resharing a post on your profile. Read the information carefully and look at the profile of the person who created and shared the original post.
  • Find out when the poster created the Facebook profile. Scammers always create profiles when their old one gets banned. If you click on their profile, it will tell you how long they have been a member of the group. You can also find additional information on their public profile.
  • You should see it in the news. If a child goes missing or a tragedy occurs, you’ll most likely see it on different news outlets or shared by law enforcement, not on a random post.
  • Do a reverse image search on Google. That will allow you to find out if the pictures you saw were used on other ads or websites in different cities.
  • Find similar posts. Copy and paste the text from the post into Facebook’s search tool to see if other posts with the same text and different pictures show up.
  • If you suspect a post is a scam, report it to Facebook.
BBB warns against falling victim to Facebook scams