Have you seen ads in Facebook recently promoting “free” solar panels or taco booze cruises? Chances are it’s a scam.

Social media sites are increasingly being used to commit fraud and identity theft. Scammers often target people who have common interests. Last year, for example, the Vermont Attorney General warned of a “GoFundMe” scam encouraging lawyers to donate to help a fictitious child with a rare disease. In Detroit and many other cities Facebook users were recently duped by the “Taco Booze Cruise” scam promoting a fake boat cruise on the Detroit river for $60.

The current common interest target in Michigan appears to be anyone thinking about solar panels. The Associated Press recently reported on a bombardment of Facebook ads promoting huge tax breaks if they installed new solar energy panels. Further investigation found the ads led to websites that harvested personal information. Some of the solar panel ads led to a shadow company in California, once under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. 

According to Facebook’s help page, “Scams on Facebook happen when people create fake accounts or hack into existing Facebook accounts or Pages you’ve liked. The scammers use these fake or compromised accounts to trick you into giving them money or personal information. If you’ve received a message that you believe is a scam, you should avoid responding and report the message to Facebook.”

Here are some additional tips to avoid social media scams.

  • Beware of messages or posts from recognized celebrities, businesses or even friends that ask you to give money to make money or win a prize.
  • Never give out personal information, including Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers over the Internet to someone you do not know.
  • If you think a social media post is a scam you can report it to:
  • If you suspect you have been fraudulently contacted regarding your DTE Energy utility service, call DTE at 800.477.4747 to speak with a customer service representative who can confirm the status of your account.