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A Facebook message from an “old friend” might be a scam

Scam alert

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You and the Law

Almost 7 out of 10 people in the United States use Facebook to connect with friends, family, former classmates and members of their community. With that many people online, it’s fair to assume that almost everyone you know or knew in the past has a Facebook account.

This offers scammers the opportunity to reach out to you by pretending to be an old friend. Your Facebook profile and posts may give the scammer enough information about you to help them pretend to be someone who knows you. They may impersonate a former classmate or an old friend, reaching out to you on Facebook Messenger.

When you respond, the scammer strikes up a conversation to build your trust. Once they have your trust, the scammer will urge you to text a number to learn more about a grant, a prize or government stimulus funds. But the number you text is controlled by the scammer.

If you text the number, you may be asked to pay an upfront fee or to supply personal information such as a Social Security number, bank account number or credit card information to collect the “prize.” This part of the scam is not new. What is new is that the “friend” will ask to move your conversation from Facebook Messenger to text messages. They do this to avoid detection by Facebook’s anti-fraud technology.

These tips from www.fraud.org can help you avoid becoming a victim of this scam:

  • Don’t immediately assume your Facebook contact is who they claim to be. If you receive a message from someone you haven’t heard from in a long time, assume the message is suspect and ignore it.
  • Test them. If you do engage in conversation and become suspicious, try to verify their identity by asking a question only they could answer.
  • Beware of requests to take the conversation off Facebook Messenger. That is a red flag for fraud.
  • Asking you to send money to get money is always a swindle. Any time you’re asked to pay money to collect a prize, stimulus check or other reward, it’s a scam.
  • Turn on two-factor authentication and encourage your friends to do the same. This will require anyone trying to log into your account to enter a special code sent only to your authorized cell phone number or email. Without this special code, they cannot get  into your account.

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