Police warn community about social media fraud

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

TIPPECANOE CO., Ind. (WLFI) – A new type of fraud is taking advantage of holiday goodwill, and its platform is social media.

For the past couple of weeks, Lafayette police reported a high number of fraudulent phone calls, and Lt. Brian Gossard said social media is the natural next step.

Facebook and Instagram frequently offer free trips and free coupons just for liking or sharing a page, but Detective Sgt. Matt Coddington says this leads many to schemes.

“People are hitting on the wrong links. It might be on a friend’s Facebook page or something like that. But in these specific cases, they’re hitting on links that really you shouldn’t be hitting on,” said Coddington.

Police warn Internet users to beware of social media gift exchanges.

Coddington said a big trend right now is Secret Sister Exchange. The page encourages people to buy a gift; and if everything works out, receive 36 gifts back from strangers.

“It’s a classic pyramid-type thing,” said Coddington. “So it’s been a bit problematic, but I think they are starting to figure out just what they are — they’re frauds.”

Police said this gift exchange is just the latest version of fraudulent calls and emails.

“People are familiar with that kind of thing,” Gossard said. “Now they’re not falling for those as much, so that’s why the suspects are changing their tactics.”

Gossard said around the holidays people become more susceptible to schemes.

“People that do this tailor it to what’s going on in the season,” Gossard explained. “So they may call, or email or send a Facebook message that says ‘my presents were stolen for Christmas can you send money’.”

Even on Facebook, users need to put in their birthday and hometown to sign up. Better Business Bureau says that’s enough information for someone to steal your identity.

“Never give out your personal information, bank accounts, social security number, even date of birth,” said Gossard. “You just don’t know what the people are intending.”

Gossard said one way to avoid these fraudulent schemes is updating your passwords. Other advice is stay away from promotions or anything exclusive.

Police said beware of shortened links. If you don’t recognize the destination, don’t click.

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