Avoid the Facebook scammers

Unlikely social media posts offering tickets for resale could be a scam. Here's what to do.

When Tobi Ring from the Friends of Finedon Schools posted on her PTAs Facebook page to request unsold raffle tickets be returned to the school, she wasnt expecting the comments she received. I am selling off my 4 x tickets at discount prices, read one. I got 3 x tickets for sale, said another.

I was really worried, she says. It looked like school parents were using the post to sell their remaining tickets at a discount. These were raffle tickets that had gone home with the children, and the deadline for sales had passed. They couldnt be sold on as no one had bought them in the first place. It wasnt until I asked other PTAs in the PTA Ideas and Advice Network Facebook group that I realised it was a common scam.

In commercial events, it happens all the time – messages like these appear all over Facebooks event discussions. But neither the tickets nor the people exist. These fake accounts are run by scammers who repeatedly paste the same message, hoping someone will be fooled. If you transfer the money, youll never hear from them again.

Amy Hayes at the Friends of St Marys C of E Aided Primary School got an unwelcome surprise last year when the PTA held its firework event. Someone by the name of Jessica Wilson claimed to have tickets. She said she was gutted and couldnt go for personal reasons, says Amy. We assumed she was genuine and one of the parents transferred the money. Of course, Jessica disappeared after that.

As a PTA, you expect the people commenting on your posts to be part of your community – you think you can trust them. After that, we were vigilant and we stopped ticket resales on our public site and informed those needing to purchase to buy from someone they could confirm was a parent.

Stay safe

These tips, endorsed by Get Safe Online, the UKs leading source of easy-to-understand information on online safety, will help protect the PTA and its supporters.

What to do if your Facebook page or group has been targeted

  • Delete posts as soon as you see them and block the scammers
  • Report them and watch out for any further posts
  • Put up a post letting everybody know that you have been targeted by suspected scammers
  • Tell everyone not to reply to posts from people they cant confirm are school parents, and to only pay the school or PTA for tickets

Set your page up to avoid the scammers

  • Set up banned words and phrases such as PM me, for sale, 4x tickets and transfer. This way the comments remain hidden until approved by an admin
  • Set any posts about tickets to require approval for comments
  • Make your Facebook group private and have a rule that only parents of current students can be part of it
  • Change the settings so only those who have liked your page for more than 24 hours can comment.

If you've lost money…

  • Report it to your bank immediately
  • Report it to Action Fraud, the UKs national fraud reporting centre, on their website or by calling 0300 123 20 40.