BBB warns of Facebook scams

January 27, 2009 10:12:22 AM PST
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:
  • Friend in Distress Scam

  • 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.
  • Phishing Friends

  • 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.
  • Viral Wall Post

  • 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:

  • Be extremely wary of messages from friends or strangers that direct the user to another Web site via a hyperlink.
  • Before wiring money to a friend in a jam, users should attempt to contact their friend outside of the social networking site, to confirm the situation. If that's not possible, BBB recommends asking them a question that only they would know the answer to.
  • Social networking sites are about sharing information, but BBB recommends that users take steps to keep important information private. While some social networking Web sites do allow for the user to share phone numbers and addresses, it's best to keep such information private.
  • Be selective when choosing friends. While a user might not want to be rude, BBB recommends that it's best to decline a request for friendship if the user doesn't actually know the person.
  • Users should always make sure their computer's operating system and antivirus and firewall software are up to date.
  • For more advice on staying safe online go to bbb.org .


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