Facebook Page supposedly belongs to ‘Agent Linda Smith R’, a government official who helps people to claim money they think they have won in Facebook lotteries.
The Facebook Page is fraudulent. It is a resource used to help convince scam victims that they really have won a large sum of money in a ‘Facebook Lottery’ and thereby trick them into sending their money and personal information to criminals. The profile image on the bogus Page depicts, not any ‘Agent Smith’ as claimed, but rather Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. There is no such thing as a Facebook Lottery and no winners. This is just one example of many such fake Facebook Pages that are used in advance fee scams.
The Facebook Page depicted in the above screenshot claims to belong to a government official named ‘Agent Linda Smith R’. The Page includes a cover image that appears to depict a group of ‘Facebook representatives’ presiding over a Facebook lottery function. Signage in the image suggests that Facebook is giving away $2 million to each of thirty lucky winners. The Page’s profile picture depicts a woman who one might assume is none other than Agent Linda Smith herself.
However, the Facebook Page is fraudulent. It has no connection to any government organisation. Nor is it associated with any Facebook lottery or giveaway. And, the profile image certainly does not depict an ‘Agent Linda Smith’. The Profile picture actually depicts Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The image was stolen from an online news report.
So, why, you might ask, would fraudsters create such a Page? In fact, the fake agent Page is just a resource set up by criminals to help convince victims that they have won money in a nonexistent Facebook Lottery.
Here’s how the scam works:
You receive a Facebook message or email claiming that you have won a large prize in a lottery organised by Facebook. The message advises you to contact one ‘Agent Linda Smith’ to begin the process of claiming your unexpected lottery win. The message will instruct you to click a link to visit ‘Agent Smith’s’ Facebook Page and send her a claim request via the Page’s message system.
‘Agent Smith’ will quickly get back to you and explain that she is a government agent who’s job it is to oversee your prize claim and work with Facebook to ensure that you get the promised funds.
She will also claim that, before getting your prize money, you must pay upfront fees for various expenses related to the processing of your claim. She will warn that, the requested fees cannot be payed out of the prize money itself under any circumstances and that, if you don’t pay up quickly, your prize will be given to somebody else. You will likely be asked to wire the money via a funds transfer system such as Western Union. After you pay up the first time, ‘Agent Smith’ will likely send further requests for even more money, ostensibly to cover other, unexpected expenses.
During the course of the scam, ‘Agent Smith’ will ask you to provide a large amount of your personal and financial information, ostensibly to verify your identity and allow the transfer of your prize funds.
Finally, after she has extracted as much money and personal information from you as she can, ‘Agent Smith’ will simply disappear and you will never hear from her again.
All of the money you will be sent will be pocketed by the criminals running the scam. And, if they have managed to gain enough of your personal information, the criminals may also steal your identity. Or, they may sell your information to other criminals who will in turn attempt to steal your identity. Of course, you will never receive the promised lottery prize, which never existed to begin with.
There are many similar – and equally bogus – ‘agent’ pages on Facebook that are used in such advance fee scam campaigns. In fact, there is another fake Facebook Page that also claims to belong to an Agent Linda Smith. The Profile image used on this alternative version depicts Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina.
The bottom line? There IS no Facebook Lottery. Nor is Mark Zuckerberg randomly giving away millions of dollars in grants as a means of thanking Facebook users. Be wary of any message that makes such a claim and do not be taken in by any Facebook Pages or websites that they link to, even if they look legitimate. Often, the initial scam message will appear to come directly from one of your Facebook friends who will claim that he or she has seen your name on a ‘winners list’ and suggests that you urgently contact an ‘agent’ for more information. In fact, these messages will be sent via Facebook accounts that have been either cloned or hijacked.
Last updated: October 30, 2016
First published: July 22, 2016
By Brett M. Christensen