Scamwatch: Facebook charity fraud

Fake “cancer” appeal used photos of boy with chickenpox.

Scamwatch: beware fake charity appeals on Facebook

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we explain how to avoid being caught out by charitable donation scams using stolen images.

How does it work?

Social media website Facebook hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons this week, after fraudsters used the site to promote a charitable donation scam.

The fake post, which was shared by more than 1.2 million Facebook users, included pictures of a child with chickenpox symptoms that the criminals claimed were signs of cancer.

They found the pictures of three-year-old Jasper Allen, whose battle with a severe case of chickenpox was covered by the press last year, online, and used them in a bid to fool more people into donating money to pay for "surgery".

"This little baby has cancer and he needs money for surgery," the fake post, which Facebook removed after an investigation, said.

"Facebook has decided to help by giving 1 Like = 2 dollars. 1 Comment = 4 dollars. 1 Share = 8 dollars."

This was, of course, untrue.

How can I avoid being caught out?

You can check whether photos you see online have been used before - either by fraudsters or legitimately - by uploading them to Google Image Search.

Simply click on the little camera icon in the search box and upload the file from your computer or the Internet.

Other steps you can take to avoid falling for Facebook scams include being wary of any posts asking for money or your personal information, and keeping your computer firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes up to date.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

If you see a Facebook post using photos of you or someone you know, or you suspect you have been taken in by a fraudulent post, you can report it to Facebook as a violation of your rights.

You can also report scams of this kind to Action Fraud (0300 123 2040).