The popularity of social networking Web sites has grown immensely in the past few years. According to the blog Inside Facebook, as of December, Facebook was growing at a rate of 500,000 new users a day and is approaching 150 million active users. Facebook estimates that, in total, users spend more than 2.6 billion minutes on the Web site every day worldwide. As a result of the increase in popularity, scammers are seeing an opportunity to step in and ply their trade.
“Social networking is extremely popular because it allows us to connect and reconnect with people we know and trust,” said Kathleen Calligan, BBB President/CEO. “Scammers know that they can take advantage of that trust by masquerading as friends, families, and coworkers in order to easily disseminate viruses or steal personal information such as bank or credit card numbers.”
Some common social networking schemes include the following:
Friend in Distress Scam
One scam that has made the transition from phone and e-mail into Facebook is the “friend in distress” scam. Facebook users may receive a message in their inbox from a friend saying that they are in a dire situation – such as stranded in a foreign country – and need money wired to them. The recipient of the message doesn’t realize that their friend’s account has been hacked and that the message was actually sent by scammers. If the Facebook user does wire money to the scammers, they have no way of recovering the money after they learn that their friend is actually safe and sound.
One particularly virulent computer virus, called Koobface, has made the social networking site rounds via MySpace and most recently on Facebook in December. In Faceback, the victim receives a message from their friend saying “You look awesome in this video” or “You look funny in this video” and includes a link to an outside Web site to view the video. Clicking on the link will open a window that claims the victim needs to download an updated version of Flash. Agreeing to the update actually installs the virus onto the victim’s computer. The virus is designed to monitor the user’s Internet activity and potentially steal personal information. Victims of Koobface have had a particularly difficult time removing the virus and in some cases just decided to scrap their computers completely.
(For the rest of the story, check out this week's edition of the Cadiz Record.)