A new scam has hit popular social networking websites like Facebook. Hackers steal people’s user-names and passwords by using complex software or by “phishing” (sending links to fake websites masquerading as trusted ones, which ask for and collect login and password information) and then use their identities to make money. The hackers will usually ask friends to send them money, promote products for their own gain, or just cause trouble for the user.
Twitter users are also vulnerable to this scam. After getting your login information, a hacker will offer your followers a link to a $500 Victoria’s Secret gift card or encourage them to click on a link to get 100 followers. Even celebrities have been hit with this scam, including CNN’s Rick Sanchez, Britney Spears and Barack Obama, who unknowingly asked his followers to take a survey in January and possibly win $500 in free gas.
“It’s not the pseudo-identity that is our financial records. It’s actual identity,” says Mark Federman, a researcher at the University of Toronto.
This is exactly what happened to Bryan Rutberg. He was reading a book in his Seattle home one night when his Facebook status mysteriously changed to “Bryan Rutberg IS IN URGENT NEED OF HELP!!!”. While Bryan was trying to get back into his account, the hacker sent out messages to his friends as they came online, saying that he was robbed at gunpoint in London and was in desperate need of money to get home. Most of Rutberg’s friends were suspicious of this call for help and refused to send money, but one took the bait and wired the impostor $1,200.
“Literally dozens of people I had connected with on Facebook, some of whom I had no way of connecting with other than via Facebook, friends from high school, college, grad school, old jobs, were being solicited by the person who had hacked my page trying to get money from them” said Bryan Rutberg.
Bryan isn’t sure how the hacker got his account information, but he suspects that it was a fake link that he clicked, which is also know as phishing. Due to the rise in these types of scams on social networking sites, Facebook now has a list of frequently asked questions about money scams, phishing, and fake messages to keep users protected, and even offers steps to take if you suspect you’re the target of one of these scams.