Nine times out of 10, this is a scam and the culprits are getting more creative with their scamming methods.
Recently, I was approached by a scam artist to buy one of my Facebook pages that has nearly 500,000 followers. At first, the offer seemed absolutely ridiculous. They offered me $8,000 USD for every 50,000 fans that my page had.
When I read this message, three thoughts initially popped into my head:
I have to admit, the thought did tease me and my mind started to drift a bit into fantasy while thinking, 'What if this is actually legit? What if the this girl messaging my Facebook page was actually serious and willing to fork out the cash?' It's fun to entertain the thought, even if we know deep down, it isn't real.
After initially suspecting it was a scam, I wanted to dig in a bit deeper and message the person back to learn more about this scam. Here was the first message exchange:
So here is Jenna... the pretty blond girl from San Fransisco who wants to immediately buy my Facebook page. She wants to pay "right now" and lists a few payment methods on how she can wire the funds.
I start to probe a little bit, and ask her which company she works for.
Jenna proceeds to tell me that she works for Viralnova.com, a news aggregator website that focuses on click bait headlines to generate traffic and revenue.
It's not a bad hand she's trying to play here, as Viralnova is a website that made news for successfully being able to generate a massive amount of traffic in just months after their launch. I read their former and original CEO boasting that he made $400,000 USD per month off Adsense during the initial phases of their site. Recently, they were given a 100 million dollar evaluation.
Basically, the scam artist claimed they worked for a viral news source that brings in crazy amounts of money and traffic. Because of that, they could easily afford to pay such a ridiculous lump sum to purchase my Facebook page. Furthermore, after reading about Viralnova a bit more, the main strategy they used to generate their traffic came through Facebook marketing with click bait titles. It is estimated that 90% of their traffic comes through Facebook.
So really, if there were such a company to spend a boatload of cash on a Facebook page, Viralnova might be the type of site to do just that. Picking a company like this makes sense for the scam artist, rather than a highly recognizable brand like Sony, or a no-name company. They are famous enough, while not being too famous.
Jenna continues to urge me to work this deal out right away (what's the hurry? my Facebook page and your website aren't going anywhere anytime soon). I can only assume the scammer thinks that if I am pressured to make a decision, I'll make the wrong one.
She offered me $70,000 USD for my page after I let her know I nearly had 500,000 fans. This is just too much! There is no way my Facebook page, or any Facebook page is worth that much money. Seriously, had their offer been closer to $10,000 I think the scam would work a bit better because $70,000 is just an insane amount of money (for me at least).
After a bit of back and forth, I send her a friend request. We chat a bit more, but then eventually I just start to troll her and ask questions just to see her response.
If Jenna actually worked for Viralnova, I'm sure she'd have an e-mail address associated with the domain. This is just standard practice with any company that hires staff. I ask her to e-mail me from her official Viralnova e-mail address.
This is actually a good tactic for anybody to weed out scammers. If someone is claiming to represent a company, they should be able to comply with this simple request. Not only should they be able to, they should be more than happy to do so to eradicate any doubts of misrepresentation.
I also checked Viralnova's website, and they did have a staff section. Obviously Jenna was not listed.
It seems harmless to add someone as a low level analyst on your page, but hackers have figured a way to manipulate the data requests to their advantage. Facebook has caught on to this scams like this in the past, and they even have a program called the Bug Bounty Program which compensates users for identifying security flaws within their platform. The problem is, hackers are resilient and will eventually figure out a new way to exploit the system after a bug gets patched up.
In this scenario, Jenna asked me for screenshots of my insights rather than asking for a page role. I can only assume that after I sent over the screenshots, she'd ask for the page role to verify the screenshots were actually real. We didn't get to that step, because I didn't let it.
I continue to probe and say that I will e-mail their company to verify the identify, since she's not listed as staff on the website. Another normal procedure. If you've ever worked in a major industry, this is fairly common during a hiring process. Employers want to see proof of employment to make sure you have not fabricated your work experience / history.
And of course, an excuse as to why she's not listed on the website, and why management will not respond to me.
Ok - so she doesn't want to verify her employment records, or send me an e-mail from their company e-mail. So how about a selfie? I ask her to take a selfie holding a sticky note with my name and date on it.
I ask for the selfie, and if it were a pretty young blond girl from San Francisco trying to close a business deal, I'm sure this 30 second activity to prove her identify would not be an issue, but rather a fun activity! I mean lets be honest here, what girl turns down an opportunity to take a selfie? This should be proof enough right here that they are fake!
Apparently Jenna's boss will not permit selfies! What kind of asshole boss would not allow that? Especially working in media and marketing. Most people plaster their face on everything, but NOPE, not Jenna's boss. He's such a dirt bag that she's terrified to even bend the rules and send me a simple selfie.
I've basically had enough at this point. Especially after she offers to send me her passport. I didn't even really know what to say to that, because I was just thinking she'd send me some sort of trojan horse virus to infect my computer. I mean, she's not allowed to send a selfie, but she's willing to send me her passport info. That makes sense... right?
In my final message to her, I point out how her profile is obviously fake. She had no activity on any of her pictures other than some likes from the same people on every picture. I suppose that is not uncommon, except for the fact that all the people liking her picture were fake accounts using names of Porn stars! The fact that I recognized a bunch of adult entertainer names off her list is neither here nor there, and is irrelevant... I'm just good with names ;)
I almost felt like just saying to this scammer that if you were a tad bit smarter with your profile, you could have diversified it a bit more to make it seem real. Perhaps they were underestimating my investigation work, but the reality is, if you own a large Facebook group, you are going to have a lot of these scumbags come after you.
At the end of the day, don't fall victim to these guys (or girls). Just be smart, and don't hand over anything without doing your due diligence.