Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beware: nearly scammed on Facebook

Last night I received an instant message from a former coworker (from Anchorage) on Facebook. I hadn't heard from her in a few years except for occasional comments on my Facebook posts. The message said that she was in London and dealing with a lot of "crap." Then the story went that she had been mugged at gunpoint and the thieves stole all her credit cards and cell phone, etc., and she couldn't pay her hotel bill...and their flight was leaving in a couple of hours.

While this tale was being spun, I got another instant message from another Alaska coworker, who told me that she'd received a similar story from Denise. That's when it all started smelling incredibly fishy. Then the person asked if I would help "her." I freaked out and immediately shut down Facebook. When I got back on to look at the person's wall, I saw that it had been wiped clean. And there was another message saying "are you there? I really need your help." I then reported the profile to Facebook and blocked it.

When I did some internet research, I discovered that this is a very common scam. Apparently the scammers wipe the real person's wall clean so that no one can post a warning on it. Right after all this happened, my computer got attacked by an anti-virus virus--essentially it's a Trojan virus that takes over your computer and keeps saying your computer is infected and you must buy software to wipe it clean. By this morning, none of my programs worked. Thank God for IT departments! I'm not sure if the two incidences are connected, or if it's from another stupid Facebook virus I got yesterday.

Here's what you need to do to protect yourself on Facebook (or elsewhere online):
  • Go into account settings and change your Facebook account to an https setting (Account Security). This makes your account much harder to hack.
  • If you hear a sob story from one of your friends via e-mail or chat, do not do anything unless you talk to that person on the phone. Ask lots of questions!
  • Report the problem to Facebook immediately.
  • If you get a virus, change your password and delete all the virus alerts off your friends' walls.
  • Do not play silly Facebook games! Those games open your account to the public--you lose all your privacy.
  • And for heaven's sake, do not click on anything that sounds too good to be true. (I'm constantly lecturing Chris on this issue...but guess how I got the Facebook virus yesterday...stupidly clicked on something about Southwest Airlines giving away airline tickets. Live and learn from my mistake!!)
I called my former coworker last night and she returned the call today. She was in Alaska, safe and sound, although a bit freaked out by having her Facebook account hacked. Her husband's relatives in Croatia cottoned onto the scheme because her husband's English was too good to be believed. Another friend questioned how they would get on an airplane without her purse.

You may wonder why I'm still on Facebook...well, it's to stay in touch with people (like former coworkers or childhood friends) who have passed in and out of my life and who no longer live near me. It's to be able to get to know my coworkers a little better. I love staying in close touch with my cousins (and Mike's cousins) around the country and around the world. Last night's scam freaked me out a little, but it's a good lesson to be extra careful.

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