SWEETWATER COUNTY — The Sheriff’s Office today issued an alert concerning a social media scam circulating in the county.
Sheriff Mike Lowell said his office has received reports, particularly from Green River residents, concerning a resurgent “Facebook Friend” scam.
Intended victims receive a “friend” request from someone they know on the Facebook network; the red flag is (or should be) that the individual is already one of his or her Facebook friends.
Thinking it’s safe because they know the individual, the victim-to-be accepts the “friend” request, and that’s when the trouble starts.
Criminals re-create an already-existing Facebook profile using that individual’s profile picture and “About” information. Next, they employ the fake new profile to send “friend” requests to that person’s Facebook friends.
If the friend request is accepted, the scammers then have access to the many personal details in a person’s profile, including location, photos, date of birth, and status updates. These simple details can be used as substantial steps toward full-blown identity theft and the havoc that ensues.
This particular “Facebook Friend” scam adds an additional twist, Lowell said.
If you “friend” the scammer, you are then contacted by him/her (posing as your friend), who informs you that your name has appeared on a government award list that says you are entitled to stimulus/grant/award money in some large amount – in this latest instance, $90,000. Your “friend” then provides a text number, to contact, where you learn that you must send in a “collection charge” – ranging from $750 to $1,000.
That, of course, is the sting: if the scammer is successful, you send in the bogus “collection charge” and you never hear from your counterfeit “friend” again.
Lowell said that when it comes to scams of all sorts, the Sheriff’s Office works to foster awareness and prevention.
“We encourage everyone to follow the MAP principle,” he explained. “Remember the letters of the word MAP. ”
M – If you are contacted and they ask for Money (M), it’s a scam.
A – If you are contacted and they ask for Account information (A), it’s a scam.
P – If you are contacted and they ask for Personal information (P), it’s a scam.
Cybercrime specialists recommend that Facebook users exercise caution and never accept “friend” requests from someone who is already a Facebook friend. Another strategy has also proven helpful – to avoid being contacted by these scammers, consider changing your Facebook security settings so strangers can’t see your photos, profile or friends list.
For more information on scams of all kinds, the Sheriff’s Office recommends the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website at www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud as an excellent source of information.