RealTime IT News

Old Scam Is New Again on Facebook

A scam that became common earlier this year on Webmail services -- and years ago on Japanese cellular networks -- has surfaced on the popular social networking site.

According to reports, victim Jayne Scherrman of Cape Girardeu, Mo., sent almost $4,000 to a scammer impersonating a friend on Facebook.

According to the reports, the scammer hijacked the account of her friend Grace Parry and sent Scherrman a message saying her friend was in jail in London and had no cash.

Even though Parry soon learned that someone had taken over her account, she was unable to prevent several friends from falling victim to the scam.

Security experts have been warning for months that social networks leave people more vulnerable to scams because of the atmosphere of trust they promote.

Facebook representatives did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Old scam resurfaces

Experts have said that criminals are trying attacks on social networking sites that no longer work on e-mail and the rest of the Internet.

This particular ploy, the stranded traveler scam is an old e-mail threat that is still alive on e-mail networks.

An older version of this scam targeted Webmail services and would start with an e-mail purporting to be from a system administrator, according to one report.

The e-mail said that Hotmail was running out of storage space and "was going to have to close any accounts which were not being used." To prove that an account was in use, the e-mail recipient was asked to reply with their name and password.

Once the victim gave away her password, the scam commenced.

In fact, these scams date back years and don't require the Internet at all. Years ago, scammers in Japan would steal cell phones and call the owners' relatives, saying, "It's me, it's me" -- and then ask for money.

In Japanese, "It's me, it's me" was "ore, ore" -- so the ploy became known as the "ore ore" scam.

"The sad truth is that people are far too trusting of messages they receive via social networks. Just because it appears to come from a friend, doesn't mean that it's a friend who typed and sent it," Sophos security expert Graham Cluley wrote in a blog post.

"My advice? If you receive a message from a friend asking you to wire them money, treat them with suspicion. And if you want to confirm if they're really in dire straits or not, ask them for a phone number where you can call them. At least then you'll be able to tell if it's their voice or not," Cluley added.