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Facebook “please send me money” scams on the rise

by Neal O'Farrell on July 19th, 2010

The FBI recently warned of a spike in a scam where crooks pose as a real Facebook user and contact all that user’s friends with a convincing plea for money. The story often involves travel to a foreign land, where the fake victim claims they have been robbed at gunpoint, their wallet or purse gone (along with money, credit cards and passports) and they desperately need their friends to wire them enough money to make it home safely.

And the crooks can get even more brazen and creative. In one case, a crook actually called his victim’s grandmother, and, claiming his voice was different because he was sick, persuaded grandma to send him some money to help bail him out from a gambling debt.

Apparently the crook had used freely available information on the victim’s Facebook page to learn more about the victim, his background and his family, to create a clone convincing enough for grandma to fall for.

The NBC affiliate in Los Angeles recently told the story of how a hacker broke into a user’s Yahoo! account, stole a photo of the individual and then used it to create a fake Facebook page. The crook also used the victim’s Yahoo! address book to contact all the victim’s friends with a convincing story about how the victim and her family had been robbed in London and needed some money sent to them so they could get home.

Lessons learned?

• If you’re not used to your friends or acquaintances asking you for money, especially in unusual circumstances, from unusual places, or for unusual reasons, take the risk of fracturing the friendship and just say no. If you’re still not sure, find some other way to determine if the friend really is traveling or doing whatever else it is they’re claiming.

• Keep to a minimum the information you post on any social networking site, and be especially careful about posting family stories, history, photos, and names.

• Change your passwords often, especially your email and Facebook passwords, and make them as hard to crack or guess as possible.

“Help, I am stranded!” scam haunting social networks

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