According to the latest Intelligence Note from the IC3, people continue to lose thousands of dollars to a common social networking scam.
Here’s how it works:
- Somebody hacks your friend’s Facebook account.
- They send messages to all their friends that boil down to “Help, I’m in London and somebody stole all my money and cards and I need you to wire me money. I’ll pay you back later.”
- You wire several hundred dollars to London.
- You find out your friend has been at home the entire time and, “Oh yeah, by the way, somebody hacked my Facebook account…”
Maybe there are cases where people have actually gotten cleaned out in some foreign city and used Facebook or Twitter to contact their friends and have them wire money to them, but I’ve never heard of it happening.
If you get a message like this from a Facebook friend, don’t just respond immediately by wiring cash. There are some questions you need to ask first:
- Is your friend actually in London?
Actually, that one question alone will usually tell you everything you need to know. Pick up the telephone and call your friend. You know that mobile Internet device you’re always using to find sushi restaurants? You can call people on those. If your friend is sitting at home watching the Leif Garrett episode of Behind the Music for the hundredth time, you know that message was a scam. Also, “Oh yeah, by the way, dude, somebody hacked your Facebook account.”
Then again, if you get that message at all, you should already be about 99.9% sure it’s fake. Even now, whose first reaction upon getting robbed would be to run to Facebook? There are police in London, you know, and I’m sure they have procedures.
Plus, you should never wire money to anyone without being able to verify, beyond a reasonable doubt, who you’re sending it to, where you’re sending it, and why you’re sending it.