Back in early 2008, TechCrunch reported about a Facebook phishing scheme where some users received wall posts proclaiming that funny or scandalous pictures had surfaced. When a user clicked on the link, he or she was redirected to what looked like the Facebook login page, but which actually was an imposter site that collected usernames and passwords of unknowing users.
The newest occurrence is a bit more confusing and a bit more dangerous. As reported on CNN and MSN, some users have received what appear to be desperate messages from their “friends” who have found themselves in a financial bind. These messages have arrived as both direct messages to a user’s inbox or as an updated status on the victim’s profile proclaiming that the person urgently needs help.
The messages are actually part of a new 419 scheme where cyber criminals try to steal money by pulling on heartstrings and testing the loyalty of friends. CNN reported about Bryan Rutberg whose status update was mysteriously changed by hackers to an urgent plea for help.
His online friends saw the message and came to his aid. Some posted concerned messages on his public profile — “What’s happening????? What do you need?” one wrote. Another friend, Beny Rubinstein, got a direct message saying Rutberg had been robbed at gunpoint in London and needed money to get back to the United States.
So, trying to be a good friend, Rubinstein wired $1,143 to London in two installments, according to police in Bellevue, Washington.
Facebook has set up an online reporting system for victims who have either received or sent these kinds of messages and warns users to use caution when dealing with requests for money or personal information.
If you receive a message from one of your “friends” requesting money, my personal advice would be to call them and check it out. You may find that they’re actually sitting at their desk at work, drinking coffee and completely unaware of their plea for help.
On the same note, I feel like if I was robbed at gunpoint in London, I’m not sure I would send a message to anyone via Facebook. I would most likely call my parents or my friends and talk to them directly…