Traci LeBrun

We are hearing all the time about scams targeting older victims, and really anyone who has a Facebook account or an email. This week, my step father-in-law had an odd message from “me” in his Facebook Messenger inbox.

He sent me a text saying he wasn’t able to open the pictures I sent him in Messenger. Knowing I didn’t send him anything, I figured I better give him a call.

When I called him, he said there was a message from me saying there were pictures in a folder and he just needed to click on the link. He said when he did that, the screen on his phone went black and the “wheel of death,” as we used to call it when I was a teacher, started spinning. Some insidious person either made a fake Facebook profile of me and must have friend requested him with that account and he accepted, or someone hacked into my account which is a possibility.

Thank goodness he attempted to open the “photo link” on his phone and not his computer with all his bank and online shopping account passwords on it.

I too have had these scams come through my Messenger inbox, but the only reason I knew not to open them is because we get emails from various agencies alerting us to these scams all the time.

My advice to him, having seen this before on Facebook, was to always confirm an account when someone friend requests him. This can be done by either contacting the person via text or a phone call and asking them if they’ve friend requested you or doing a search of that person’s name. If you find more than one account that shows up with a duplicate picture in your search, this is a red flag. There is a good chance there was a fake account that someone has duplicated, and it’s best not to accept the friend request. I just delete those friend requests so they don’t continue to show up in my notifications. The other possibility is that your friend just forgot their password and needed to create a new account. But most often, that isn’t the case.

I also suggested not clicking on links sent in Messenger (or in email) if they look suspicious. Viruses can be attached to these links to steal passwords to personal banking accounts, online shopping accounts, company emails, etc. I have also had people I thought were legit profiles message me asking very general questions like, “How are you?” after accepting their friend requests. They then proceeded to ask for money after I responded.

Facebook has their own advice. They say to report anything suspicious or any message you get that seems too good to be true.

They say: “If you see an account that’s pretending to be you, someone you know or a public figure (example: celebrity, politician), we encourage you to let us know. You can report potentially impersonating accounts to us.”

How do you report a potentially fake profile? Facebook says to first, go to the profile of the impersonating account. If you can’t find it, try searching for the name used on the profile. When you find it, click on the three dots on the 

cover photo and select “Give feedback or report this profile.” Follow the on-screen instructions to file a report of impersonation.

When something gets reported to Facebook, they’ll review it and remove anything that doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards. And your name and other personal information will be kept confidential.

Facebook gives additional advice on how to protect yourself from scams. They say to watch out for the following:

• People you don’t know or any person asking you for money.

• People asking you for advance fees to receive a loan, prize, or other winnings.

• People asking you to move your conversation off Facebook (typically another messaging service).

• People claiming to be a friend or relative in an emergency. In these situations, it’s probably best to call that person before you respond.

• Messages or posts with poor spelling and grammatical mistakes. These may be from another country.

• People or pages claiming to represent large companies or organizations, particularly those who are not verified. If you see a blue badge or grey badge (little blue or grey checks in a circle) on a page or profile, it means that Facebook confirmed that this is the authentic page or profile.

• Messages from people or pages presenting themselves as public figures, particularly people or accounts directing you to a page to claim a prize.

Overall, unfortunately, being online means you have to be aware in this day and age. There are people looking to take advantage of others. But technology can also be a blessing, and when we’re careful, it can enhance our lives.

Traci LeBrun is the editor at the Mille Lacs Messenger

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