‘Don't Be a Victim' Series: How to Avoid the Facebook Messenger Scam

A woman received a message from a Facebook friend telling her she'd won a government grant. Instead, she wound up hundreds of dollars in the hole.

Don't Be a Victim: A weeklong series — NBC10 is giving you tips on how to not be the victim of fraudsters every day, starting Monday, April 29 through Friday, May 3. Follow along on TV and online and test your knowledge with our quiz.

When she got a message from a Facebook friend saying she'd won a $300,000 through a government grant, Marilyn Goldman thought she'd check it out.

She'd never met the friend in person, but clicked on the link to and entered her personal information to claim her prize. Instead, the prize came at a price of thousands of dollars that Goldman won't be getting back after falling for this Facebook Messenger scam.

As it turns out, the friend who messaged her had died about a year and a half prior; someone had hijacked the account and was using it to scam unsuspecting victims. Goldman ended up paying $1,850 as a "service fee" before realizing she'd been duped.

The website Goldman was redirected to looks legitimate, but there are some telltale signs that you can look for when it comes to government-run websites:

1. Does the site list fees for each grant? U.S. government grants do not come with a fee.

2. Check the back-end of the URL. Federal government sites should end with ".gov," not ".com."

3. Look for giveaways in how they advertise government agencies. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services goes by the acronym HHS, not DHHS.

4. Check the grammar. Poor grammar and punctuation are another giveway to a scam website.

5. Look at the "Contact Us" section. A federal government agency will be based out of Washington, D.C., not out of Vancouver, Washington, as in the case for the site Goldman clicked on.

Bonus tip: If your loved one has died, Facebook allows you to "memorialize" their profile, that way it won't be hijacked by others. When a profile is memorialized, the content stays up, but no one is allowed to log in. In addition, the word "Remembering" will appear next to the person's name on their profile.

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