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Plenty of people who are connected to the internet are catching up with friends on social media or randomly surfing the web. Unfortunately, so are scammers. They are taking advantage of social networking sites, earning victims’ trust by pretending to be someone they already know and sending out a message or two with hometown news, a fundraising request, or perhaps a great deal on a product.

While scrolling through Facebook, a message pops up in Facebook Messenger. It’s your friend, family member or neighbor. At least it “looks” like them because the profile picture matches. From here, the conversation goes one of two ways. In one version, your “friend” tells you about the most awesome deal or video they found online. Just select a link, share the good news or simply, respond to the message.

Would your real friend pass along this type of information?

In another version, the “friend” claims to be raising money for a charity, one you are familiar with. They’ll push for a donation and yet, it sounds suspicious. But the message appears to be coming from someone you know and trust.

A third version is circulating in which the “friend” believes their account has been “hacked” and asks you to friend them on a new request. Turns out, they were not hacked at all. The profile is publicly visible and copied by a cyber-thief who then creates a new profile and is now sending out new friend
requests to a bogus account that looks like it’s your friend.

Before you respond to such a request, the Better       Business Bureau recommends you go the extra step and call, text or email the friend to see if they really did send it to you and keep these tips in mind:

  • Be wary of online messages. A person may be trustworthy in real life, but sometimes friends share things without checking them out first, and online accounts can be hacked. Take a closer look before sharing, applying or donating.
  • Check your friends list. If you’ve gotten a friend request from someone you think is already your friend, check your friends list to see if this could be a duplicate, fake account.

Do some research. Go to BBB.org/scamtracker to see if the online website that is selling the product your friend is mentioning is truly legitimate. If you can’t find a website, it’s most likely a fake. If you can find a website, look for
contact information (no contact info is a red flag).

Press for details. Ask strategic questions without giving any personal information to confirm you are actually talking to someone you know. If your “friend” can’t give you straight answers, leave the conversation, block them and then change your Facebook settings as well as your password.

Report suspicious activity to Facebook. You can report scammers to Facebook to help protect your real friends and family from a scam, plus you can report impersonations. You can reduce the risk of having your profile impersonated by tightening up your privacy settings and hiding your Friends
list. Do a “Privacy Checkup” by clicking on the question mark at the top of your Facebook home page.

Report your experience on BBB.org/scamtracker. Your experience can help others to spot a scam.
(Article excerpt from the South Bend Tribune)

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