Tuesday, January 27, 2009

HoCo Warns Of Facebook Scam

With all the Internet scams out there, this alert from the county struck us as odd. Why single out this one? There must be a back story. Either that, or Facebook has become so mainstream that its days are surely numbered :)

From HoCo Gov:

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman warns Howard County residents to be alert for bogus e-mails from individuals who purport to be “friends” who need emergency cash. Howard County residents report that they have been contacted by friends who claim that all their money and credit cards have been lost or stolen while traveling and need money to return home. These e-mails, however, have been sent by imposters who have hacked into social networking sites such as Facebook to obtain personal information that will enable them to pose as the “friend in trouble” as well as a list of “friends” who become the targets of the scam.

“This e-mail scam is just the latest of a number of ‘phishing’ schemes that have been reported to our Office of Consumer Affairs and other consumer offices around the country,” said Executive Ulman. “Phishing” involves the sending of e-mails that appear to come from government agencies, well-known companies, or even friends that are, in reality, from con-artists attempting to obtain private financial information or cash from the recipient. Consumer agencies around the country have reported that a number of people have immediately wired money to overseas locations only to learn later that their friend was safe at home.

“These e-mails are very deceptive since they often contain details about the person, such as the name of his/her spouse or children,” said Rebecca Bowman, the County’s Consumer Affairs Administrator. “Such details can easily fool someone into thinking the e-mail is real and their friend is in trouble. It is therefore important to verify the legitimacy of all requests for personal information or money, regardless of who the sender is,” warns Bowman. “Before wiring money to a friend in a jam, try contacting your friend through other means to confirm the situation. If you can’t make contact, ask your friend a question that only they could answer,” Bowman suggests.

While social networking sites are intended to allow people to share information, the Office of Consumer Affairs also suggests the following tips to avoid being targeted by con artists:

* Don’t post everything. Some information, such as telephone numbers and addresses, are best kept private.
* Be selective when choosing the “friends” who can access the information you post. It is generally best to decline an invitation for friendship if you don’t actually know the person.
* Be extremely wary of messages from friends or strangers that direct you to another Web site via a hyperlink.
* Make sure your computer's operating system and antivirus and firewall software are up to date.

Howard County consumers are also urged to report the receipt of this and other internet scams to the Office of Consumer Affairs, regardless of whether they have lost money. “It is usually next to impossible to get back money lost to phishing scams,” says Bowman. “So getting information about such scams from the public is essential in our efforts to warn others before it is too late.”

1 comment:

John G. Boyle said...

Yeah, I was wondering about that one. I thought that it was an odd (and minor) thing to warn folks about.