Facebook scammers could be impersonating you – and fooling your friends

We are always eager to alert the Starts at 60 community to the new, increasingly deceptive scams currently out there. Here’s one

We are always eager to alert the Starts at 60 community to the new, increasingly deceptive scams currently out there. Here’s one that had many of us in the office fooled for several minutes – and, when the game was up, genuinely angry at those who would sink to such lows.

A new scheme currently doing the rounds can have scammers (or pieces of software automatically enacting a scam) registering a new fake account with your name – and your personal photo – and asking to connect with everybody on your friends list.

This scam, known as “social engineering”, can be surprisingly subtle and effective.

We recently encountered this first hand, when several Starts at 60 writers received a friend request from our book club coordinator, Karen.

Most of us were a little surprised (weren’t we already friends?), but independently added her without a second’s hesitation. Perhaps one of us had inadvertently unfriended the other. Perhaps she lost her prior account and needed to start a new one.

A few minutes later, she contacted each of us with a message:
“Hello, how are you?”

One reply later:
“Nothing much, just looking for ways I can invest my new Government Grant money, and you?”

At this point, it was immediately obvious this poster was (a) missing Karen’s trademark wit, and (b) intent on talking each of us into applying for a nonexistent cash bonus.

The fake account was summarily reported to Facebook and blocked. But we were alarmed at just how easily and willingly we let a scammer into our lives – if only for a few brief moments – potentially opening each of us up to further attention from those with bad intentions.

What if the scammer had made more effort at impersonation? What if they’d done a little more research? It’s a sobering thought, and serves as a very timely reminder…

If you see a friend request from somebody you have already added, make sure it’s legitimate.

  • Check to see if your friend’s existing account is still listed.
  • See how many friends this new account has (it may only be a handful – a sign that the account was only just created).
  • Ask your friend through another channel whether or not they know about this.

If you are concerned about your identity being stolen, check your Facebook privacy settings to make sure your friends list is not publicly viewable. This will cut off many scammers’ means of contacting your loved ones.

It is also worth exercising some caution when taking online quizzes or polls that require a Facebook login. Many will ask for access to your friends list as a standard practice – which you can deny before moving forward.

We also advice checking your Facebook settings for a list of apps and websites that currently have access to your profile, deleting all but those you know to be essential.

Have you encountered anything like this? What’s the closest you’ve come to being fooled by a scam?