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Sebastian County warns of Facebook Marketplace scams

Phishing scams and attacks using Facebook Marketplace are becoming more common.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — The Sebastian County Sheriff's Office is warning residents about possible phishing scams and attacks targeting those using the popular Facebook Marketplace feature on the social media platform.

A recent post on the department's own Facebook page urges people to use caution when sharing posts on Marketplace.

Those behind the scamming attempts create innocent-looking posts to be shared. Once shared, those responsible are changing the original post and including phishing links to be clicked on.

"You need to make sure that you're very careful," said Captain Philip Pevehouse with the Sebastian County Sheriff's Office. "What are you willing to share, and in the process, what are you willing to lose because you shared?"

Clicking on these links embedded within the shared content can give criminals access to duplicating and locking your Facebook page. While that might not seem detrimental, if you are not careful in the way you try to unlock the page, you might just fall victim to a site presenting as customer support and unknowingly give up personal data and monetary information.

"No crime is victimless," says Captain Pevehouse.

One of the ways those responsible for these phishing attempts get people to share a post is to create a sense of urgency.

Jessica Franklin with the FBI in Little Rock says this urgency creates a feeling of, "if I don't act right now, it's going to be too late."

Sebastian County Sheriff's Office notes posts related to missing pets, missing children or elderly, and cheap rental prices on homes as ways to create that urgency. Franklin says this is not just something seen locally, but around the state and across the nation.

She hopes everyone uses caution while online, especially with posts that are shared.

"Online is not the place to act urgently, it's the place to act vigilantly," said Franklin.

According to the FBI's annual report from 2021, Arkansans fell victim to scam-related crimes resulting in more than $15 million in losses. Not all are related to online phishing scams, but with the holidays approaching law enforcement agencies want everyone to have their guard up.

However, there are ways you can reduce your risk of falling victim to these types of crimes.

On posts, check for misspellings, report any post you think is suspicious to the social media platform you are using, search for the original missing post or photo, never click on a link directly, and hover over any link to see where the hyperlink is attempting to take you.

In the case of seeing a post about a missing child or elderly person, Captain Pevehouse says to check your local law enforcement pages. If there is an active Amber or Silver Alert in your area, they will have the original posting.

Unfortunately, these types of crimes can be very deceiving. Many go unreported and oftentimes, people will not know they are a victim until it is too late. Both the FBI and Sebastian County Sheriff's Office say there are still ways to get help.

"The best and most proactive thing you can do is immediately contact your financial institution," said Captain Pevehouse. "The second thing they're going to tell you is, you need to contact your local law enforcement agency and that's as simple as picking up the phone and giving us a call. Somebody is always here 24 hours a day."

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