According to the Better Business Bureau, a fake friend request on social media quickly turned into an expensive nightmare for one Idahoan. He says a scam carried out via social media and text messages cost him $60,000.
"It started when the Idaho man got a friend request that appeared to be from an old friend. Thinking he was about to reconnect with a long, lost buddy, he accepted. Soon after, the two began to exchange messages. The “friend” explained he had just won a large amount of money, and encouraged the victim to see if he had too," BBB's Emily Valla explained.
"The Idahoan says that’s when he called an “agent” connected with the prize, and the agent told him to prove who he was by providing personal information. Then, he was told to pay a $750 fee to cover the delivery of his prize package. The scheme went on, and according to the victim’s BBB Scam Tracker report, he ended up sending tens of thousands of dollars over 15 transactions," Valla continued.
BBB says scammers will try to play with your psychology, and one main scam tactic is to build trust.
"Bad guys don’t always come out and ask for money on the first day. In this case, the scam started because the victim thought he was in touch with an old friend. Scammers know we are more likely to trust the word of friends and family than strangers. Next, the phony agent in the case corresponded with the man many times via messages and texts. He built up a relationship to get the man to trust him. The victim was convinced his prize money would arrive any day, and the fees along the way were just an inconvenience," Valla said.
To protect yourself from a social media scam:
Check your privacy settings. Tighten your security settings on your social media accounts to the highest level. Don’t allow people you aren’t friends with to see your posts, and be cautious with what you do post. Avoid sharing sensitive personal information online, as scammers can make themselves seem more believable by preying on facts you’ve posted online.
Be cautious with friend requests. If you don’t know them, don’t accept. If they are a “long ago friend” that is trying to reconnect, see if there are any friends in common and see if there is activity on their page. Contact mutual friends you know to see if they have had contact with them.
Watch for requests for money. Impersonators will earn your trust and then come up with a reason for you to send money, whether that be to claim a prize, help them travel to see you, or pay medical bills. Avoid sending money via wire transfer, prepaid card, or in cash, as it can be impossible to recover lost funds.
Better Business Bureau has a number of resources to help you protect your identity and money. Find more at www.bbb.org.