Image: © depositphotos.com/ArturVerkhovetskiy
Scammers continue to trick unwary Facebook users into handing over their money and personal information by falsely claiming that they have won a large cash prize.
A scammer, posing as one of your Facebook friends, contacts you via Facebook Messenger claiming that you may be eligible to receive a prize. He or she urges you to contact a “Facebook agent” for more information. The scammer claims that he or she has already received the prize money and has seen your name on a list of other people eligible for a payout.
Here’s a typical example:
Have you heard about Publishers Clearing House (PCH) In conjunction with facebook promotion trust fund. They are helping a lot of people with $80,000.00 cash
Because the message appears to come from somebody you already know, you may be more inclined to believe the claims and contact the agent.
If you do make contact, the “agent” will confirm that you have indeed won the promised cash and ask you to send your personal information so that the prize claim can be quickly processed.
However, you will then begin receiving messages claiming that you must send money upfront to cover various – entirely imaginary – expenses such as taxes, insurance, or transaction fees.
If you send the requested funds, further demands for money will likely follow. Finally, the bogus “agent” will simply disappear with your money and you will no longer be able to contact them. You will never get your money back and, of course, you will never receive the promised prize, which never existed in the first place.
And, because they may have managed to collect a large amount of your personal information during the scam, the criminals may also be able to steal your identity.
Scammers Use Cloned or Hijacked Facebook Accounts
So how do the scammers manage to trick people into believing that the messages come from one of their friends?
Often, the scammers will use cloned Facebook accounts to achieve this. Facebook cloning describes a technique in which scammers create a fake Facebook profile by using images and other information stolen from a targeted user’s real Facebook profile. Once the scammers have created a fake profile, they can send friend requests to people on the targeted person’s friends list.
At least a few of the victim’s friends may accept this second friend request because they mistakenly believe that the victim has accidentally unfriended them. Or, people with a large number of Facebook friends may have forgotten that they were already friends with the victim and accept the second friend request.
The scammer can then begin sending messages to the people who have accepted the second friend request. These people will likely believe that the message really is from their friend.
In other cases, the scammers may have hijacked a Facebook account via a phishing scam. Once they have gained access to the compromised account, the scammers can use it to send the fake prize messages to all of the people on the account’s friends list.
Variations of these advance fee scams are also distributed via email and text message.
Be wary of any message that claims that you are eligible to receive a large cash prize or grant from Facebook. Facebook does not randomly distribute cash prizes to its users and there is no such thing as a Facebook lottery, grant, or award.
If you receive one of these messages, do not respond. And, if you suspect that a friend’s account has been cloned or hijacked, let him or her know as soon as possible. You may need to make contact outside of Facebook to ensure that you are talking to your real friend and not the scammer.