Facebook Scam That Preys on Your Fears
We've heard of them for years, but they're getting more insidious. Sunday night, as I was going to bed, I saw a weird message pass through my friend feed on Facebook. A 'friend in the computer' had posted earlier in the day and it was clear that she was at home in the northern US. The fact that a wall post went up at a late hour was odd (and I forget the actual gist of the message, just that it was out of character)
When I got up the next morning, it was clear she'd been hacked. Not the sort of hacking that happens when your kids found you didn't log out of FB on your iPad sort of thing (which happens to a friend pretty much weekly with amusing results). No, this was the one that's going around where the scammer poses as your friend and says he or she is in a foreign country and needs your help.
At the time that this scammer got into M's account, a handful of her friends who live further west were pinged in chat. (I was apparently still up, but my chat was turned off). All of those who had contact with this scammer have now been blocked from M's account, which apparently is a Facebook safety precaution, because they reported it.
One of the friends who was contacted in chat shared the transcript of the conversation and asked me to put this out there as a warning to others. These people are very pushy and will stop at nothing to get you to send them money. I'm removing their names and pictures, but the conversation is real. M is the person posing as my friend, J is the friend who was contacted (and yes, she recently was given the all clear on breast cancer).
J hey there
M how you doing? we are currently stuck in London uk,went there on a short vacation and was mugged at a gun point last night
Doing good. Oh no..you got mugged. That must have been SOOOO scary!! Are you okay?
I was hurt on my head,writing you in tears now as we speak,All cash and credit card was stolen off including cell phone,it was a brutal experience
Ooo M wish I could be there in person to give you a hug. I'm here so vent away. Did you go to the hospital and got everything checked out?
Head injuries are dangerous
We are freaked out here,have been to the embassy and the police they are not helping issues at all i was ask to come back in three weeks time
What?! Lemme at the embassy and the police!! They should be helping you 100% :-(
thank God we still have our life and passport with us......I need your help
Get mugged is NOT minor. It is traumatic!
what do you want me to do?
Our return flight leaves in few hours to this time and we are having a problem in sorting the hotel bill and get a cab down to the airport
Wondering if you can loan me some few $$$ i promise to refund it back to you as soon as we get back home tomorrow
Oh dear I can't. I'm having money woes at the moment and we're on a very tight budget because of cancer. I'm so sorry. So sorry.
wish I could help
why can the embassy help?
i don't know
Did you call the credit card company and let them know?
i had them cancelled it
you can still wire this money to me using your credit card online
can the hotel call your credit card company with you there and work out something?
do you know how to get it to me?
I can't afford that amount. it's too steep and I've maxed out my credit card paying my chemotherapy.
okay how much can you afford?
it will go along way for me
I'm sorry. I can't. I so want to help. what about your family? Can they help?
am with family
oh dear you're with your family. Oh boy what a mess.
M Are you okay? I'm sorry that I can't lend you money. So sorry.
can you loan from a friend for me
i promise to refund as soon as i get back home
Huh? What do you mean?
can you loan from some one for mr
i will def refund it back
you mean ask someone else for the loan?
i will def pay back
we are freaked out here
I don't know who to ask and I know you're totally freaked out.
I'm trying to think
how much do you have on your credit card
maybe you can help me with that
i will it back as spoon as back home tomorrow
I can't do it. I;m so sorry.
what about your siblings?
i don't want them yo panic that was why i contacted you
I understand but they need to know so they can help you out.
let them panic and try to bring you home safely
I'm so sorry that you're so freaked out.
At this point, J realizes that something is definitely not Kosher and contacts Facebook
by reporting and sending a log of the chat session. In addition, a third mutual friend, B, was contacted about the same time as J was, so the scammers were trying to work two people at once.
The sad part? All three of these ladies are nice, kind-hearted women and even though things didn't seem right, they were worried sick about M until word came back later that morning that M was fine and at home, but targeted by hackers. All three of them are so upset that they cannot use Facebook as a means of contact until this mess gets straightened out.
Word to the wise:
If a friend chats you up out of the blue and gives you a story that tugs at your emotions, ask them to CALL YOU or if they don't have your number, CONTACT ME AT OUR OTHER ONLINE HANGOUT. This may deter some of these jerks.
If you realize that someone is trying to deceive you, and you go to post on the real friends wall, you may find it down. This is the scammer's tactic to prevent you from warning all the persons other friends. (If you notice a friend's wall is down and you haven't been contacted, assume someone else is being harassed and do the right thing and contact the friend through alternative means.)
If you haven't already, go find Facecrooks and follow them. The information they provide is extremely helpful in keeping current on the scams that are so prevalent on Facebook.
Also, if you use the same password everywhere, start changing them. I recently bumped up my gmail security settings that require access from an unfamiliar machine (i.e. not my phone or laptop) to enter the code from an authenticator app I have on my phone.
Facebook will text you if someone logs into your account from an unfamiliar machine, but I don't have my phone number listed on there. If you do, consider the option. I do have it set up to send me emails anytime there's a log in situation similar to the gmail account, which means I get one every time I log in from campus.
The scammers sent me an email, but it went directly into my spam folder. they created an email account on gmail that was pretty similar to M's name, but gmail flagged it as not from M. The text of it ran fairly closely to what J received.
If providing this info helps keep one person from panicking and sending money to a scammer, then it was worth it.
As I told J, I spent part of the day yesterday debating putting up a message "I'm not going out of the country, I have no plans to leave the country anytime soon and if you get messages otherwise, it is NOT me."
At the end of the day, the scammer didn't succeed in getting any money out of anyone with this scam. However, there are at least three people right now who are upset that they can't communicate with each other they way they have been on Facebook. In that regard, the scammer robbed all three friends of companionship, which totally bites.
UPDATE: Friends on Facebook are all spreading the word about this event. Keep doing it, because the scams will stop being an issue if we all talk about them.
M emailed me a recounting of what happened from her perspective. I'm sharing that as well, so that if you do become a victim of one of these jerks, you have an idea of how to fix things:
Hi, M here.
I was woken at 6:45 on Monday morning by a phone call from a grad school friend. She had been chatting with the hacker, and knew it wasn't me. By the time I could get downstairs to my computer another friend (a mother of one of my daughters friends) was calling me. At this time the hacker was on my account at the same time as me. I could see the pop up windows, but could not see what was on them.
I changed me password, locking the hacker out. I then followed the links on facebook security to report the account as compromised. It then deactivated my account, and send me at text to my phone to reactivate it. I changed my password again.
I had this strange feeling my account wasn't still under my full control. Messages I didn't make kept popping up and people who I had not contacted were messaging back to me, as if I had contacted them 1st.
I later realized that the hacker had opened up windows to any friend on line, and some of them had responded to me after I had regained control of the account.
I was also getting messages fast and furious about the emails and to see if I was ok. I had made a status report, but it was like no one had seen it. It wasn't until I turned on my husbands computer on I realized no one could see my wall.
I slowly was able to see the messages and interaction the hacker had made with my friends. 3 friends had reported it on FB, I can't see them anyone. I can't get their profile to pull up and I can't see their comments on friends threads. They are gone.
It wasn't until a few hours later I figured out how to turn my wall back on. It was set under privacy as "only me". I didn't even know that was a option.
The one friend that had email contact with the hacker and had returned the email and played along. She agreed to help and the hacker sent her a account to wire the money too. The hacker assured her that she/he had a passport as ID to pick up the money. The ironic part is, I don't even have a current passport.
Hours after I had locked out the hacker, they continued to email my friend. Asking if I sent the money yet and how much they needed it. This friend they asked $ 1500 from. Some friends it was only $600.
At this point I called the local police to see what they thought about it. They felt they could not do anything, but transferred me to a detective to see if there was anyone to forward the info too since I had info on him/her. I left a message. No one has called me back.
It isn't the emails so much that really bugs me, but the face book impersonating. It is such a personal thing.
I now have my facebook account set with login approvals. It is a pain, but if I had this before the hacker would have not been able to get in. What really bugs me is I NEVER click on the virus links. I don't know how they got in.
To my friends that facebook won't let me have contact with (I can't even see them on facebook.) Thank you so much for knowing something was wrong and reporting it. Try to unblock me if you can.
I learned one thing from this whole mess. I have some really great friends, who really have my back. I received so many phone calls and messages all day from concerned friends.
If I ever send you a email and ask for money, DON'T give it to me.
And there you have it. A crappy situation all around, I wish M lived closer so I could give her a hug and a big, fruity drink right now. J, a hug and some chocolate and the other two, more hugs and more fruity drinks.