16 News Now Investigates: Bait and Switch Schemes on Social Media

Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 6:26 PM EST
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(WNDU) - 16 News Now Investigates is looking into Facebook posts that could use your profile in a bait-and-switch scheme.

It starts when you’re scrolling through Facebook and see a post about someone in need.

“It’s either someone who has supposedly lost a pet or there is a missing child, someone’s been injured, some unfortunate situation that’s happened,” explains Jan Diaz, Vice President of the Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Indiana. “All of these situations are gut-wrenching, they’re horrible, they are things that they’re posting that any normal person would want to respond to and help.”

The post often contains a call to action, asking you to share the information to your profile to spread the word.

“Once that happens, the scammer gets in, and they change the original post to some type of rental ad or to a link pointing to a survey that guarantees a cash prize,” says Diaz.

This bait and switch misleads your Facebook friends, who trust that you’re sharing something legitimate.

“So then your other friends will say, oh so-and-so posted this, and it must be safe because now they’re sharing it on their personal page, let me take advantage of it,” Diaz adds.

The Better Business Bureau says this scam technique lets the post spread like a virus, leaving those who click on it vulnerable to things like identity theft and their personal information being accessed.

It all starts with taking advantage of your sympathy, according to Vice President Jan Diaz.

“The common thread is an emotional plea that’s urgent that encourages people to share the news with their friends.”

This can leave some people who are actually in need unable to get help on social media.

“Some of the people who really do have legitimate needs are being left behind because they don’t have those polished stories like some of the scammers can create,” says Diaz.

The Better Business Bureau says the best way to fight against this bait and switch is by doing some digging. Read the information in the post carefully. You can look up the information and put the word “scam” after it in a Google search to make sure the post isn’t part of a bait-and-switch scheme.

Diaz also advises you to check other community resources.

“You should also see it in the news. If a child goes missing, if there’s a tragedy, there should be different news outlets and publications or even if it’s shared by law enforcement,” she explains.

If you do see a Facebook friend posting something that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

“I feel like we have all had to become experts at determining whether things are fake, says Diaz. “Anyone and everyone who has a Facebook page is subject to these things… so it’s definitely a cause for concern because, you know, we don’t want to be scammed, we want to do the right thing, but sometimes we can’t identify who the scammers are, and we don’t want to pass up a legitimate need that’s out there.”

If you’re unsure about a post, don’t click on it without doing some research first. If you do think it’s a scam, report it to Facebook to prevent others from falling victim to it. You can also report it to the Better Business Bureau at BBB.com/ScamTracker.