The social networking giant Facebook certainly isn't immune to scam artists trying to fool gullible users into sharing their personal information and cash. Variations of the advance fee lottery scam scheme have been making the rounds for the past few years. Here are some tips for reporting this scam if you're contacted by a con artist and keeping yourself safe from Facebook predators.
While many Facebook users only accept friendship requests from people they know offline or who are friends of someone they trust, many users accept requests from someone online who 'seems legit.' Often, this friend is presented in the form of an older female because of how nonthreatening she is to most people. She may even have an FB timeline full of motherly advice and cookie recipes.
After you've accepted a friend request from one of these con artists, they will contact you via Facebook chat informing you that they work for FB and that you have won a lottery being run in appreciation of FB users. They say all they need is you personal info including your phone number, home and email addresses and you are on your way to receiving a check in the mail.
Once the scammers have this information, they likely will contact you and ask for an advance fee. They may claim that this fee will cover any materials that need to be sent to you by mail. They may also ask for banking or other credit information in order to supposedly prove your identity.
If you set up your FB account as being able to be contacted by anyone, whether they are on your friend list or not, then the scammer can simply message you without having prior friendship approval.
This con is essentially spam in nature and you should report it to the Facebook staff. Find instructions here: https://www.facebook.com/help/118100101665319/. Remember that even if the con artist didn't ask you for cash up front, this may still be a phishing attempt for your personal information which will make it much easier to steal your identity for other purposes—credit card fraud being very likely.
Facebook has been the object of criticism for its perceived lack of protection of the privacy of its users. While you may enjoy leaving your Facebook account open to the public, you might want to reconsider this and only share your account with friends. At least take care in who you accept a friendship request from. Don't give out your personal info to strangers online, especially your social security number or any other ID numbers. Set your email visibility to private or friends only. Learn more about FB settings and security here: https://www.facebook.com/help/580504375298594/ or go to your account and click on the down arrow on the top right hand side and then click 'Settings.'
This type of scam isn't new to the internet. Unfortunately, even with increased knowledge on the part of the public, some people still fall for it. Most of us remember entering a lottery and companies don't generally enter users names randomly, so keep in mind that if you didn't enter—you didn't win.
Good luck and stay safe online.
Facebook Lottery Chat, Scam Detector, accessed August 2014. http://scam-detector.com/social-networking-scams/facebook-lottery-chat
Facebook Online International Lottery Advance Fee Scam, Hoax Slayer, May 10, 2013. http://www.hoax-slayer.com/facebook-online-international-lottery-scam.shtml