Facebook – Newsfeed, Page Changes, Targeted Scams and Genealogy

As you may or may not have noticed, your Facebook feed has probably changed lately.

Many people depend on social media for connectivity with family, valued groups such as genealogy and DNA, and to some extent to receive notifications from companies with whom we do business.

Facebook announced on January 11th that they would be making significant changes to their proprietary algorithm that prioritizes what is shown in your feed. You can see Mark Zukerberg’s post here.

What does that mean to you?

Let’s talk about three things today.

  • Messages that no longer appear in your news feed.
  • Why this is happening and ways to address that problem.
  • Creepy targeted scamming, what to do about it and security preventions.

Group Messages Not Appearing in Newsfeed

The first thing that happened is that the postings from several groups I am quite fond of just quietly disappeared from my newfeed. After a few days, I though it was quite odd that I hadn’t seen any activity, so I checked the group to see.

They were still quite active, but I had received nothing at all.

I then checked other groups and found the same thing.

Here’s how to fix this part of the problem.

Go to the page of the person, group or business you want to follow and see regularly.

Click on the “Following” button, where you will see the following options:

  • See First
  • Default
  • Unfollow

Click on “See First.”

You can select any number of groups, businesses and personal accounts to “see first.”  That just means that they are the items you want to see before anything else in your newsfeed, if Facebook decides to post their item to your timeline.

Unfortunately, that’s only half the problem. Tagging to “See First” doesn’t mean you’ll see everything, but you can do other things to increase the number of items from any particular group that you will see.

Facebook’s New Policy Restricting Content Delivery

Several years ago, I created a business page for DNAexplain.  That was a big mistake.  I should have simply have created a group type page.

Live and learn.

What I’m about to explain pertains to businesses both large and small, consulting and community pages. It may also apply to others, but these are the ones I know of for sure. The remedy for how to fix this problem applies to all Facebook pages, so read on.

On the DNAexplain page, shown below from my administrator’s view, you can see at the bottom left hand side of the posted article, it says “150 people reached” which is a small percentage of the people who follow this page. Facebook does that on purpose so I will pay to reach more people – which also means that you probably won’t see my content unless I pay.

If I click on that blue “150 people” link, then the box with the green checkmark that looks like leaves shows up, above the link. It says that I can pay $10 to boost this point to reach up to 4,000 people.

If I then click on “Boost Post,” I receive a menu.

I can then target this posting to various groups of people, in differing locations.

When you see those “Sponsored” items in your news feed, they come from a business, community or consulting page that paid to have their content more widely distributed.

For me to reach all of my page subscribers instead of about 10% of them, I have to pay for every single posting. So far, I’ve published more than 950 articles, so the total outlay at $15 per article for Facebook to deliver this content to the people who have “liked” my page would have cost me $14,250. I don’t know if the fees vary depending on the size of the business or the number of subscribers, but I do know this isn’t just painful, it’s impossible for a small business that offers a blog with free content.

This new policy doesn’t just apply to “business pages.”  For example, one of my favorite pages is Northern Michigan Wildlife Photos which is listed as a “community” and posts free wildlife photos, with nothing for sale. Before the change, they reached their subscribers with no problem, but no longer.

They were on the verge of shutting the page down because Facebook applied a “governor” to the number of subscribers their postings reached, reducing them from 31,000+ to just a few hundred. Of course, they could pay to reach more. Fortunately,  various subscribers told them how to improve the situation by having people change their feed to “see first,” but IN ADDITION also by doing the following:

  • Like every post, which means you’re more likely to see future posts, and so are others
  • Comment on posts

The more you interact with a Facebook site (person, group or business), the more often Facebook will think that you want to see their content. So, the strategy for seeing as much of a particular person or page as possible in your newsfeed is to BOTH tag to “See First” AND like and comment on every posting in that group or on that person’s page.

Scammers Directly Targeting People

The third and last thing I’d like to chat about is that scammers are directly targeting people by a type of electronic stalking. Yes, that’s really creepy.

How does this work?

A scammer often utilizes the photo of someone looking either “interesting” or “respectable” or even animals, like puppies and kittens.

They send you a friend request. You think, “looks good, what can it hurt,” especially if they are friends with someone you know, leading you to believe they are legitimate, and you accept.

The answer is that it can hurt a lot.

I am normally extremely vigilant, but I fell for this recently, because I was individually targeted.

A man whose name I had never seen before commented on a thread I was included in, on someone else’s genealogy topic feed. We chatted about the topic and common interest. Then he friended me.

I accepted, without checking further. After all, we had just been chatting.


What I didn’t realize is that someone else had quickly grabbed his photo, set up a fake account with only one letter different in the surname, and quickly friended me. So, yes, “someone” was watching and specifically targeted me.

My first actual warning was this:

Just so you know, I didn’t take this screen shot until after I had quickly unfriended Adam, so that’s why the top of the message says we’re not connected on Facebook. He tried to refriend me immediately. Adam, whose real name certainly isn’t Adam, is a pro at this game and knows exactly what to do.

A real contact would have not begun with “How are you today?” but with a continuation of the topic we were chatting about minutes before. Scammers try to chat you up and gain your confidence. I’ve seen this before, so my red internal neon danger sign was flashing bright red.

A couple years ago, my 94-year-old cousin died. About 6 weeks later, he was apparently risen from the grave, because he requested me to friend him on Facebook. Ironically, the scammer appeared to have lifted his photo either from his website (yes, he had a website at 94) or his obituary.

I’m guessing the obituary, because the next step after the “hello,” just like above, mentioned something about Sally, his daughter who was identified in the obituary. And yes, the next steps were to attempt to scam me after trying to gain my confidence with some of these exact same words.

By the way, right now one of the big scams is people attempting to get you to purchase iTunes gift cards as a form of currency.

I knew my cousin was dead, so there was no doubt in that case, barring a miracle of Biblical proportions. Although I must admit, I did tell the scammer how amazing it was that he was risen from the dead and it wasn’t even Easter.

I reported this fake account to Facebook and they took care of it within minutes, but the threat is greater than you simply being scammed.

These bad actors then friend everyone on your friend list. If you have a public friend list, they don’t even have to trick YOU into friending them to gain access to your friends.

If you have your friends list locked down, it’s better, but nothing is 100%. If you do accept their friend request, they can see, and target, all of your friends and family.

Here’s what to do to prevent this from happening.

  • With every friend request, click on the link to their page and look to see how many friends are listed, how many common friends are listed, and their activity. A barren account is a sure sign of a scammer.
  • Just because there are common friends listed doesn’t mean the scammer didn’t trick those people too.
  • Ask yourself why this person would be friending you.
  • If you still have questions, copy their Facebook profile photo, and search using Google’s reverse photo search where you drag and drop or paste a photo and Google searches for other instances of that photo. You’ll be surprised how many different people one photo may be if scammers are utilizing it heavily.

Unfriending and Blocking Scammers

If you accepted a friend request, then realized it was a mistake, quickly click on their personal page, then on the friends button, then unfriend them. That makes your page unavailable to them.  You can take it one step further by blocking them as well, which means you can’t see them and they can’t see your page at all.

Secondarily, you may need to block their private messages to you, which you can do by opening the message they sent to you, then click on the gear, then click on “block message.”

Reporting Scammers to Facebook

Lastly, you should report suspicious activity to Facebook. In my experience, Facebook has been quite prompt in addressing fake accounts and removing them once notified.

Of course, those same people will creep up again, kind of like whack-a-mole, but you’ve at least taken care of this one.

To report them to Facebook, on the scammers cover photo on their fake page in the bottom right corner, click on the little three dots.

You’ll see “Help us understand what is happening.” Click on “Report this profile.”

Then, on the next page, you can report the account as fake.

Conversely, on your own page, you can click on the question mark at the top right and click on “Report a Problem.”

While you’re there, do a privacy checkup too.


As the old proverb says, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

The best resource I’ve found about Facebook ins, outs, privacy and security is FaceCrooks whose website you can search by keyword.  You can also follow them at this link on Facebook.

Remember to “Like” their page and set your display setting to “See First.”

In particular, please read the article, How to Lock Down Your Facebook Account for Maximum Privacy and Security.

Don’t let the bad guys scam you, trick you into friending them or use you, your Facebook page and your friend list as a free ticket to friending and scamming others.

And yes, before you ask, please feel free to share this article far and wide. That’s the purpose!



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29 thoughts on “Facebook – Newsfeed, Page Changes, Targeted Scams and Genealogy

  1. Facebook is a scam. They gave us all this “free” stuff over the years, to get people hooked in the literal sense of the word (how many people do you know who visit it ten or more times a day?) then they slam on the charges to people and businesses who want to use it to market to us. The free lunch is now gone.

    The only thing I use Facebook for is to find information on people who have not responded to my requests for family tree information after I’ve seen them appear as a match. About ten percent of the time, the person who wouldn’t answer an adoptee’s question has blabbed their whole family history on Facebook, or at least enough of it for me to figure out their pedigree tree.

    Maybe we’ll all go back to a time when being social didn’t involve an online network.

  2. As a Facebook user who has nearly 20 years of professional experience with SW processes, I became appalled at their disdain of security, apparently preferring to apologize after your account had been hijacked rather than front-loading measures such as spending resources securing their security gaps leading to wide-open “back doors” in order to avoid these hijacks in the first place.

    I therefore ditched Facebook years ago.

  3. A “barren” account isn’t necessarily a sign that the person is a scammer. It might also mean they’re a person who knows how to work privacy settings, and chooses to use them. If you pull up my Facebook account, you won’t find a single post, because *all* of my posts are friends-only. You’d seen my photo, our mutual friends, and a very short list of things about me that I’ve chosen to include. That’s it.

    If you friend someone back and *then* see nothing, that might be a red flag. But then you can just unfriend them. I’d have missed out on some great people (and quite a bit of paying work) if I only friended people who didn’t use privacy settings. In fact, I interact far more with people who post to friends only; I avoid public posts as much as I can.

  4. Thanks for the heads-up, Roberta! Same thing has happened to me with the scammer only it was (seemingly) a relative. This particular relative and I live 1500 miles from each other, and politely chat for 5 minutes at annual family reunions so when “she” was suddenly all chatty on Messenger, I realized something was awry!! I’m pretty locked-down on FB, but still, scammers masquerading as casual acquaintances are a trap!

  5. Thanks! Agree with everything you’ve said! For a while I was getting requests from men I did not know. A peak at their pages revealed that some sported a chest full of medals & appeared to be in the military. The rest were “engineers” & seemed to all work on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico! I complained to Facebook & they mostly disappeared! Thank you for sharing!

  6. My solution? Deactivate my FB account. I dont like the idea of being held hostage by any participant in social media whether its’s a person or entity. Done and dusted!

    Lois _/\_ Sent from my iPad


  7. I, for one, am quite fed up with Facebook. I do not have every person I know as a “friend” (I really don’t care to see the kind of mindless photos with people sticking their tongues out and making faces or posting about their bad habits). I really only want to see posts from my family members which now don’t show up in my feed. I took a break from Facebook for a couple months and found I’m much less interested in the things people post now. I don’t accept friend requests from people with whom I may have chatted. I am giving some thought to just closing my account, if I can’t see posts from my family there really is no reason to have a Facebook account. I would not be interested in following most businesses, and the few groups I checked out just did not interest me. I do appreciate the tips you’ve given.

    • Amen to all you’ve said! As for following businesses on social media, that is their dream, not ours. Generally, most businesses look at the Internet as a giant ring through our noses, that they can lead us around by to purchase things we don’t need because our “friends” are all doing it, and we all want to be like them whenever possible. I suppose there are mindless people who do piddle away money in just such a fashion (QVC couldn’t exist without enough people being so gullible) but for the vast majority of us, if we have a complaint or a problem that we want a business to solve, we find ways to contact the company directly, rather than to be seen as whiny online.

      For those who think they “need” it to do their jobs, or run their business, they need to step back from it a bit, at least mentally, and examine critically just why they have been led to feel that way. The first thing that any advertiser needs to sell is themselves, your product or service is only secondary to that.

      • When I had my business, I was told it would be necessary to spend a good deal of time interacting with my customers on Facebook. It wasn’t. Had I done so I would not have been available to interact with the customers in the store iteself. Now if you want your business posts to reach your customers they want money. It simply is not cost effective now and would not have been while I owned the business. The places we did advertise were excellent for attracting new customers and far less expensive.

  8. Thank You Roberta – I needed this article on “how to” I’m so NOT tech savvy, and always muddling my way around. I thought my FB account was all set to the proper privacy settings, when my mail lady was at my home for lunch (yes I feed the mail lady hot soup in a snow storm) wanted to add me to her FB Friends. She went right to my page and could read everything. dahhh – like I said – I’m so not tech savvy. Today’s AARP (now I’m telling my age) magazine arrived, with an article all about FB scams. Their article was not done with the care of instructions as yours. Thank you – Ally in Cali

  9. Few people here have mentioned that they’ve deactivated their FB accounts…deactivating means not using it any longer or something else? Otherwise how did they post comments here’s?

    And more, I’ve noticed that a lot of FB users don’t display their FB friends. How to do it?

    • They are posting comments on this blog. This blog is not Facebook. I do post links to these articles on Facebook, but they are two entirely disconnected things.

      Deactivation either means not using the account or deleting the account.

      The article I provided a link to in the last paragraph of this article from FaceCrooks about how to secure your account contains instructions.

    • From Facebook’s Help Center:
      What’s the difference between deactivating and deleting my account?

      If you deactivate your account:
      – You can reactivate whenever you want.
      – People can’t see your timeline or search for you.
      – Some info may remain visible (example: messages you sent).

      If you delete your account:
      – You can’t regain access once it’s deleted.
      – We delay deletion a few days after it’s requested. A deletion request is cancelled if you log back into your Facebook account during this time.
      – It may take up to 90 days to delete data stored in backup systems. Your info isn’t accessible on Facebook during this time.
      – Some things aren’t stored in your account. For example, a friend may have messages from you after deletion.
      – Copies of some material (example: log records) may remain in our database but are disassociated from personal identifiers.

  10. Do you allow sharing this on facebook or would they try to charge you? I know you have posted on Kentucky DNA page in the past.

  11. I miss Genforum and Rootsweb. Ancestry really messed them up. The only thing I like about the genealogy Facebook groups is being able to post photos. You could do that at Rootsweb before Ancestry took that feature away.

    • ROOTS-L is generally back up and running, don’t know about GenForum. And, the other Roots lists were dying on the vine before, even without the “refurbishing.”
      I don’t feel the same responsibility toward the plethora of FaceBook iterations, and I think it’s somewhat because of the sometimes thoughtless (as in “less than thought out”) responses, but even more because the medium does not lend itself to reading down the responses before responding. And, of course the “me tooism.”
      Call me old.
      But, Donna, I don’t recall a time when you could add photos to any Rootsweb lists. Are you thinking of ‘way back before 2000 MyFamily.com rescued them?
      My brain doesn’t go back quite that far, sorry to say. I just remember it as a dos based system.

  12. I miss Rootsweb and GenWeb from the old days too. I de-activated my fb account late last year. I plan on re-activating it again soon. But I do not plan on putting it back on my phone nor putting messenger on my phone. I will check it on my lap top at least daily. But I was spending way too much time on it with the phone app. So I took a hiatus to break the habit.

  13. I used to use social media, until I was stalked. Legitimately stalked. I had a Facebook account from the time the company had started up..through my university (before it was made public). Long story short…I was stalked by someone not just through Facebook, but by them friend-ing my family and friends and trying to con people into giving them information about me. They would also drive back and forth in front of my apartment.
    My family stopped using social media about 6 years ago because of that. At first it hurt losing touch with old friends and extended family, but it has turned out to be a huge blessing. Facebook is a huge time suck and I am so happy to be rid of it. People think I am super weird when they ask if they can Facebook me and I tell them our family does not use social media. I feel like a unicorn. 🙂

  14. After everything I’ve read about Russian involvement in the election using Facebook and social media, I personally would like to turn it all off. The only reason I keep a Facebook account is it helps me do some research and crowdsource brickwalls. Otherwise, I’d already have closed my account altogether.

    What’s also interesting to me is how few young people are on Facebook. None of my family members under age 30 are on it. If they are on social media — many are not — they use Instagram.

    When I have visited Germany, I’m always struck by how few people there use social media. They read a lot of books over there. I’m starting to think that’s how I’m going to only consume information moving forward.

    I’ve stopped subscribing to the daily newspaper in my town because it was all slanted to one political orientation that is opposite of mine. I unsubscribed from cable. We don’t even have a tv in our house. I do have an iPad and watch videos periodically on YouTube or Netflix. It’s interesting because it feels to me like other 50-60 year old people like me are stuck in media that big companies want them to consume (like Facebook). If learning the Russians manipulated our election using it, I wonder what it’s going to take for them to pull the plug on their social media altogether.

    • It’s not blackmail, it’s just the pusher upping the price of the drugs once the addict is hooked.

      Maybe I shouldn’t use a drug analogy, since that’s already illegal, but the principle is the same, give something away at under cost, then when the buyer feels he ‘needs’ it, jack up the asking price. If any of you regularly shop at Wal-Mart, you’ve enabled their predatory pricing to eliminate the mom and pop businesses from your community, allowing Wally World to gouge you when they’ve run off the people who were contributing to the local Little League team.

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