The Latest Scam — Stealing and Reselling Facebook Groups

Gini Graham Scott
6 min readDec 30, 2023
A Scammer Selling Stolen Facebook Groups

If you have a Facebook group or are a member of one, here’s a threat to worry about — if it already hasn’t happened to you. Scammers are stealing Facebook groups by changing passwords and emails. Once they control it, they can sell it on the black market to buyers who can make money from the group members — or even get their emails and personal identity information to scam them, too.

I became aware of this scam because my own email account and the two groups I set up in the account were stolen about four months ago and my own posts were removed. Then nothing seemed to happen. A post I wrote in the groups about the theft was left pending, and the last posts from a few other people remained as of mid-September. My associates with posts in the group heard nothing either.

Then, a few days ago, I suddenly got a notice that my long-pending post was now posted, and when I went to the group, I discovered there was a new administrator, and the following day, a second administrator. But they had different names than the email of the scammer who took over the group. So who were they? One man seemed to be living in a village in Italy; the other one seemed to be a family man somewhere — but neither had any friends or followers. The groups were also suddenly acquiring dozens of new members as if they were being advertised somewhere. Then, a few of the members started posting offers of assistance in recovering money or groups, which are usually scams. One woman wondered if others had encountered a scam by a particular marketplace that took her money.

That’s when I began wondering how did these new administrators or owners get the group? At least they didn’t seem aware that I was the previous owner, so I began looking up information on the new posters as well as on the practice of buying and selling groups. I found two online articles about this practice, along with a couple of sites that offer groups for sale. I also asked some writing, ghostwriting, and publishing Facebook groups where I am a member about the sale of stolen groups, and no one had heard of this problem, which doesn’t seem widely known. Thus, I have written the first of these articles about the theft and resale of these groups. Here’s what I learned.

The Growing Theft and Sale of Facebook Groups

The illicit trade of Facebook groups has become a significant concern in the digital world. Scammers have devised a new method to hijack Facebook groups, turning them into commodities for illegal trade. This method involves replacing the email addresses associated with the group’s administrator accounts, effectively transferring control to the new owner, then selling the newly acquired group as an asset. The process undermines the trust and integrity of online communities. It highlights their vulnerabilities and the darker aspects of social media.

How a Theft Occurs

The theft of a Facebook group typically begins with hackers or scammers gaining unauthorized access to the group’s administrative controls. Scammers achieve this through various means, including phishing, social engineering, or exploiting security weaknesses. For example, they might use a phishing attack in which they pretend to be sending a message from Facebook or other authority, so they trick group administrators into revealing their login credentials. Once these credentials are obtained, the scammers change the group’s password and email address, effectively locking out the original administrators and taking full control of the group.

The Black Market for Facebook Groups

Once a group is under their control, scammers turn to the black market to sell these groups. The value of a Facebook group largely depends on its size, activity level, and the niche it caters to. Prices can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. This illegal market thrives in hidden corners of the internet, often on dark web forums or through encrypted communication channels.

The black market for buying and selling Facebook groups exists on a couple of websites which turn up in a Google search, which is unusual, since otherwise there are a lot of cautionary postings in response to questions about how this is illegal. Presumably, there may be other sales sites on the dark web, and it would seem this market is difficult to police, since the buyers and sellers are located in different countries around the world. So it’s like the Wild West out there.

The exact number of individuals affected by the theft of Facebook groups is difficult to ascertain, too. This is primarily due to the varying sizes of groups and the often secretive nature of these thefts. Another difficulty is that large groups with thousands of members can significantly inflate the number of affected individuals. Then, too, group members may not immediately realize that a group has been stolen or compromised.

Identifying the number of sellers of Facebook groups is equally challenging. These operations are typically conducted anonymously and often through encrypted or hidden channels. The number of sellers can fluctuate, with new ones emerging as others are shut down by law enforcement or security measures implemented by social media platforms.

It is also difficult to name the marketplaces for buying and selling Facebook groups, because these often operate on the dark web or through encrypted channels. Additionally, these marketplaces can frequently change names, web addresses, or methods of operation to evade detection. Also, I don’t want to mention the names of the two I discovered, since these are run by sophisticated hackers and scammers who might retaliate.

Why Are Groups Sold and Bought?

The primary reason for the sale and purchase of Facebook groups is their potential for monetization and influence. Groups with large, engaged audiences are particularly valuable. Buyers, often marketers or individuals looking to promote specific agendas, are willing to pay high prices for access to these ready-made communities. Though buyers may be aware that selling and buying these groups are illegal, they are enticed by the ability to monetize the group in various ways due to its established audience.

Thus, buyers purchase these groups for various reasons:

· Monetizing the Audience: The larger the group, the greater its potential for monetization through ads, sponsored posts, or direct sales.

· Marketing, Advertising, and Promotion: Some buyers see these groups as ready-made platforms for marketing products, services, or ideologies to a large, engaged audience. Since the members are already interested in the group’s niche, they represent a targeted audience for directed marketing, advertising, and promotional campaigns.

· Spreading Information or Propaganda: Political groups or activists might purchase these groups to disseminate specific ideologies or information.

· Data Mining: Unscrupulous buyers may engage in data mining through extracting personal information about group members. This information can be used for targeted advertising or even sold to third parties.

· Affiliate Marketing: By posting affiliate links to products or services, group owners can earn commissions on any sales generated through these links.

· Membership Fees: Some groups might charge fees for exclusive content or privileges within the group, so the new owners turn the group into a source of direct revenue.

The Legalities and Ethical Implications of a Sale

The sale and purchase of stolen Facebook groups are unequivocally illegal. The transaction constitutes the theft of digital property and violates the terms of service of the platform. Furthermore, the transaction breaches the trust of group members who joined under different pretenses and can lead to the spread of misinformation or unwanted commercial content.

The Risks for Group Members

Besides being illegal, the takeover and sale of Facebook groups pose significant risks to group members. They may be subjected to unwanted advertising, misinformation, and potentially malicious content. Additionally, their personal data could be at risk of being harvested and misused by the scammers.

What You Can Do About the Problem

I’ll discuss what you can do about the problem in my next article on the topic.

Changemakers Publishing and Writing
San Ramon, CA 94583
Changemakerspub@att.net
www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com

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Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D. is the author of over 50 books with major publishers and has published 200 books through her company Changemakers Publishing and Writing (http://www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com). She writes books, proposals, and film scripts for clients, and has written and produced 18 feature films and documentaries, including Conned: The True Story and Con Artists Unveiled¸ distributed by Gravitas Ventures. (http://www.changemakersproductionsfilms.com). Her latest books include Ghost Story and How to Find and Work with a Good Ghostwriter published by Waterside Productions; The Big Con, I Was Scammed, and Love and Sex in Prison, published by American Leadership Press; and Ask the AI Wizard, published by J. Michael Publishing.

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Gini Graham Scott

GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., J.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar leader, who has published over 200 books.