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Facebook's a great space for scammers

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  • Facebook's a great space for scammers


    A FEW days ago, I got home from a dinner with friends and logged into my facebook account. Nothing unusual about that; it's the routine of probably millions of people around the world. As soon as I logged in, I checked the"instant chat" panel.

    This is a relatively new feature of the social networking site, enabling you to chat instantly with any of your "friends" around the world.

    Depending on your typing skills it can be just as effective - and far cheaper - than a transcontinental phone call.

    As I scanned the list of my friends online I noticed that another female friend with whom I used to work closely had recently updated her page to say that she was "TOTALLY FREAKED OUT. NEED HELP URGENTLY." Not one to ignore pleas for help from friends, I quickly wrote on her "wall" - the communal space in which you write message visible to all - "Why darl? what's happening?"

    No reply. A short time later, I returned to myfriend's curious message, and sent her an instant message.

    "Hi hon, what's going on - is everything OK?"

    The message I got back was alarming.

    "No. I'm in London, and I've been robbed of everything." Stunned, I replied: "Oh my god, are you OK?"

    "No. I've had everything stolen - money, wallets, credit cards, everything, atgunpoint."

    This was horrendous. Those who have travelled would know what a terrifying experience this would be.

    "Jesus, are you all right? Were you hurt?" I asked, before trying to ascertain where her husband was. "He's here. We feel grateful that we at least have our passports, and our lives."

    "Oh my god, how awful - is there anything I can do to help?" I asked, panicked. The answer came back much quicker than expected.

    "Yes. Can you please help by wiring me some money, we need to get out of here tomorrow," she replied.

    I was initially taken aback. It just didn't sound like her. I also know that this friend and her husband have many friends far closer to them than I, and are from tight-knit families too. A reverse charge call home would surely have solved any money dramas?

    My suspicion was aroused; it also didn't sound like her usually affectionate and sweet-natured correspondence. "Darl, it's late at night here - not sure what I can do now??" I replied.

    Within 10 seconds, this person had sent me the link to westernunion.com - a site through which you can wire money, 24-hours a day, for collection at the other end within minutes.

    Now I was extremely distrustful.

    Thankfully, another mutual friend was also online, so I asked her - she was about 20 minutes in front of me. She too had been hit up for cash by these frauds, and already told them where to go.

    A quick text message to my friend ascertained that in fact she was quite safe, at home in Sydney - and nowhere near a gun-toting bandit in the British Isles.

    But another friend of this woman's took the bait and wired her a substantial amount of money. Luckily for her, when the fraudsters turned up at the bank in London to collect it, they had insufficient identification to leave with the loot, so itwas sent back to the kind-hearted friend who had volunteered it.

    But the fact that these eejits had set upa bogus account in my friend's name beggared belief.

    Speaking to her since, she has conveyed feelings of complete despair about what has happened to her after joining such a frivolous communication mechanism.

    "This is a nightmare, I feel helpless," she said. "I feel violated that it's such a personal attack. It's not like when someone steals your credit card and uses your name."

    Referring to the deeply personal profile picture of her and her husband on their wedding day, she said: "The hacker or hackers are using my name and they know what I look like.

    "They are cunning - they've changed my email and password, thus locking me out of the account."

    As of late last night, I also noticed that they have removed all her friends who were contacted that night from her profile.

    "I feel awful for my friends who are pawns in this wicked scam," she said.

    But what is perhaps the most upsetting is that in times of crisis like this, Facebook are all but invisible.

    She said: "I have sent two emails to different addresses at Facebook because I've had no success in tracking down any phone number, let alone an emergency number - and still I have had no response."

    This is despicable; surely Facebook has a duty to help protect its members when things like this happen. At the very least, an emergency contact telephone number.

    This episode has come too close formany people I know, who will likely remove themselves from this otherwise harmless entity. But whether you do or not, it's worth keeping your security settings high, and your content low.



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  • #2
    Thanks Marc

    Good of you to pass this info on.
    I've always felt dubious about posting too much info on sites like Facebook, for reasons such as this.


    • #3
      This message came into my email two days ago:

      Need to find out the leasing company for this property, ____ Street, Arlington Texas. URGENT, we think our family member that leases the house is injured and possibly dead inside.

      I called the police, they checked it out and reported they made contact with the resident ... I guess everything was OK.

      I think we should be on guard for scams but we should also try to help in cases like this.


      • #4
        My friend had the same problem through hotmail this week.

        My friend's account was stolen and they sent out the same kind of message to her 600 contacts requesting money be urgently sent. I sent her a text to confirm that her account had been stolen.

        You need to be really careful with your passwords or your account will be stolen and used to defraud your friends.