Advance fee scammers regularly use Facebook as a vehicle for reaching new victims. And, they use a variety of cover stories to try to convince potential victims that their claims are legitimate.
One tactic that scammers have used for the past several years is to pretend that you are eligible to receive a large cash grant from the United Nations.
Here’s how the scam typically plays out:
You receive a message from a Facebook friend who claims to have good news for you. When you ask what the good news is, the friend will claim that the United Nations has awarded her a grant of several hundred thousand dollars. And, claims the friend, she noticed your name on the list of UN grant recipients.
She’ll then suggest that you contact the United Nations agent in charge of distributing the grants and give you the agent’s contact details.
If you do contact the “agent”, he will confirm that you have indeed been awarded a large cash grant. He’ll then claim that you will need to send money to cover various processing fees before he can release the grant money to you. He’ll warn that, if you do not pay the requested fees, the grant offer will be withdrawn and the money will be given to somebody else.
He’ll also ask you to provide a large amount of your personal and financial information, ostensibly so that your grant can be successfully processed.
But, alas, there is no grant and the person who contacted you is a scammer who is just pretending to be your Facebook friend. And the supposed UN agent will be the same scammer or an accomplice.
The scammer will continue to demand more and more money from you until you realise that you are being conned or run out of money to send. The scammer will then disappear with your money. It is very unlikely that you will ever get any of this money back. And, of course, you will never receive the promised grant, which never existed in the first place.
To make matters worse, the scammer may be able to steal your identity using the personal information gathered during the course of the scam.
UN Warns About Scams Using Its Name:
The United Nations has issued a warning about such scams on its website, noting in part:
The United Nations has been made aware of various correspondences, being circulated via e-mail, from Internet web sites, text messages and via regular mail or facsimile, falsely stating that they are issued by, or in association with the United Nations and/or its officials. These scams, which may seek to obtain money and/or in many cases personal details from the recipients of such correspondence, are fraudulent.
Scammers Use Cloned Facebook Accounts to Reach Victims:
These scammers often used cloned Facebook accounts to make it appear that their bogus messages were sent by friends.
Facebook cloning is a scam in which scammers create fake Facebook profiles using images, friend lists, and other information stolen from a targeted user. After they have cloned an account, the scammers can then target the people on the cloning victim’s friend list by sending scam messages and bogus friend requests.
At least a few of the cloning victim’s friends may believe that the messages are legitimate because they appear to have been sent by someone they know.
Many Variations Of This Scam
As noted, these scammers often claim that their potential victim is eligible for a grant from the United Nations. But, in other cases, they may claim that the supposed grant is being offered by the victim’s government, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), various international aid agencies, or even Facebook itself. Some versions falsely claim that the victim has won an Internet lottery offered by Facebook, Google, or another high-profile entity.
Be wary of any message that claims that you have been awarded a grant or won a lottery that you never applied for and know nothing about.
Organisations like the United Nations do not randomly give out large sums of money to strangers via Facebook. Any message that claims that they are is sure to be a scam.