January 22, 2009 (CHICAGO) --As social networking sites continue to gain in popularity, so do the numbers of hackers, scam artists and ID thieves using them to disseminate viruses and steal identities. The Better Business Bureau outlined some common social networking schemes:
Facebook users may receive a message in their inbox from a friend saying that they are in a dire situation - such as stranded in a foreign country - and need money wired to them. The recipient of the message doesn't realize that their friend's account has been hacked and that the message was actually sent by scammers. If the Facebook user does wire money to the scammers, they have no way of recovering the money after they learn that their friend is actually safe and sound.
One particularly virulent computer virus, called Koobface, has made the social networking site rounds via MySpace and most recently on Facebook last December. In Faceback, the victim receives a message from their friend saying "You look awesome in this video" or "You look funny in this video" and includes a link to an outside Web site to view the video. Clicking on the link will open a window that claims the victim needs to download an updated version of Flash Player. Agreeing to the update actually installs the virus onto the victim's computer. The virus is designed to monitor the user's Internet activity and potentially steal personal information. Victims of Koobface have had a particularly difficult time removing the virus and in some extreme cases just decided to scrap their computers completely.
Another recent Facebook scam takes advantage of a social networker's fears that the pictures and information they post on Facebook could be made very public. The user receives a post on his or her wall from a friend saying something like, "hey do u realize your face book picture is all over ". The wall posts vary, but all invariably link to an outside Web site that supposedly has the user's photos. Facebook warns that clicking on the link will allow hackers to gain access to the user's personal account and post the same message - seemingly coming from the victim - on their friend's walls.
BBB offers the following advice for staying safe on social networking sites:
For more advice on staying safe online go to bbb.org .