Americans lose around $50 billion each year to scams. The Better Business Bureau believes that these scams affect one in four homes. Scams delivered by phone are reported most often. A large number of people, however, are victims of scams that happen through online websites, e-mail, social media etc.
According to experts, many people, millennials included, are falling for Facebook scams.
When a friend on Facebook turns out to be someone else
Shellie Drummond found the Facebook profile of an old friend, Deborah Boyd. “I was on Messenger and my friend’s name came up,” she said. “Boyd” was soon telling Drummond about a “government grant” that she had gotten through an agent on Facebook. The agent informed Drummond that she could get financial assistance from the government. She had to send the agent some personal information and $1,500 in fees, which would help her get a grant of up to $100,000.
“The person that I was corresponding with that I thought was my friend had vouched for this foundation, and I believed her,” Drummond said.
Unfortunately, scammers had hacked into Boyd’s Facebook profile and locked her out. They reached out to her friends and family to con them. She had to warn everyone, “Please do not send them anything, and delete yourself off that page. Because it’s not me,” messages.
“They’re basically capturing that trust you have in this person and using it for their own gain,” said Emma Fletcher from the Better Business Bureau.
“She’s not wasting any time. Well, once you show an interest, you know, they’re going to go in for the kill,” Fletcher said, after a news channel contacted the “Boyd” profile through a fake profile they had created for themselves.
A large network of fake profiles were found on Facebook, offering grants from $50,000 to $1,000,000. They assured those contacting them that this wasn’t a scam.
The scammers used pictures of a real estate agent and a professor at MIT for the agents’ profiles. Neither of these people were offering any grants.
The people behind the scams
Gary Miliefsky, a computer expert set up a way to track the location of the scammers. He built a page that appears to be a money transfer company’s website but tracks the computer’s unique IP location.
“This website is an IP tracker. So when they click the link thinking they’re going to a popular money transfer site, they are allowing us to track them,” said Miliefsky. In this case, the scammers were located in Lagos, Nigeria.
“Russians use malware, the Chinese use malware. The Nigerians, they use social engineering and they use social media,” said Miliefsky.
What measures has Facebook taken to deal with this menace?
Facebook said that it has “a dedicated team … helping to detect and block these kinds of scams and developed several techniques” to put an end to this problem. Boyd, however, says that Facebook has not solved her problem and the scammers still use a fake profile with her name.
“These people should not still be contacting my friends and family. No way should they be. This is, what, six months later, nine months later? Come on!” she said.
The scammers’ profiles were eventually taken down by Facebook.