How to Avoid Facebook Scams

Recovering from a Scam

There are a few things you can do if you're the victim of a scam. What you do depends on what the scammer has done to you.

If you've divulged your password, you should post a message to your friends to warn them that your account was compromised. This might prevent your friends from following any links that will compromise more accounts. Change your password to something hard to guess -- a string of unrelated characters is best. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts or services -- otherwise you could leave even more of your information vulnerable. You can report the scam to Facebook through the Help Center.

Facebook provides a form for victims of phishing attacks. Phishing refers to the practice of tricking people into sharing private information like credit card numbers and social security numbers. One of the more common phishing scams is known by two names: the Nigerian scam or the 419 scam.

The basic scam goes like this: The person sending the message claims that he or she has a large sum of money that's being held up in another country. With your help, this person will be able to free up the money and will give you an enormous reward. But to get the money, the person needs some of your money first. This is just a cover story -- the person is really trying to steal your money. If you see a message like that, you should use the form provided by Facebook to make them aware of the problem.

If you're a U.S. citizen and the victim of identity theft, you should file a police report, contact your bank and alert the fraud departments of the major credit bureaus. You can report financial scams or identity theft to other agencies as well. In the United States, this includes:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

Facebook is a powerful social networking site that can help you stay in touch with friends on the other side of the world. There are lots of genuinely fun and useful applications on Facebook. With a little caution, you can enjoy the best Facebook has to offer and avoid being the victim of a scam. Just think twice before you install an app or click on a link.

Learn more from the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Castro, Kimberly. "Watch Out for Phishing Scams on Facebook." U.S. News & World Report. April 30, 2009. (May 1, 2009)
  • Consumer Fraud Reporting. "How to Report a Fraud or Scam." 2009. (April 30, 2009)
  • Facebook. "Facebook Phishing Scam Awareness Discussion Board." (April 30, 2009)
  • Facebook. "Facebook Privacy Policy." Nov. 26, 2008. (April 30, 2009)
  • Facebook. "Help Center." (April 30, 2009)
  • Leyden, John. "Grifters punt 'get rich quick' scams at Facebook users." The Register. Feb. 19, 2009. (April 30, 2009)
  • Mills, Elinor. "Nigerian scammers hit Facebook." CNET. Nov. 10, 2008. (April 30, 2009)
  • Raphael, J.R. "5 Facebook Schemes That Threaten Your Privacy." PC World. Feb 25, 2009. (April 29, 2009)