Imagine one day you receive a friend request on Facebook from an old buddy you lost touch with over the years. Since you recognize the person by the face you would acknowledge the request and accept it. A few moments later they message you on Facebook Messenger exchanging pleasantries with the usual “Hi” and “How are you?” Also Read - WhatsApp announces rollout of end-to-end encrypted backups for Android, iOS
Everything is going fine and you feel you’re catching up when suddenly the person drops the bomb. They tell you that they are in an emergency and urgently need money. What would you do? Also Read - Facebook launches Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses alongside new Facebook View app
If something like this has happened to you then you’re not the only one. This is a scam that has been running on Facebook for the past few weeks and many users have been duped into transferring money to fraudsters. Also Read - WhatsApp multi-device for iPad users in the works, release expected soon
What is the scam all about?
It all starts with a Facebook friend request. Ideally, that friend request will be from someone in your existing friend list who you haven’t spoken to or rarely interact with. The fraudsters copy the profile pictures from your friend’s or family member’s account and use the same to reach you.
Since you know the person by face it doesn’t seem suspicious at first. Shortly after that, the fraudster posing as your friend messages you telling you that they are in an emergency and want some money immediately with a promise to return the money the day after.
They ask you whether you are using any digital wallet like Paytm or PhonePe and then share the number you have to make the transfer to. They will repeatedly plead to cite an emergency and would try to convince you to transfer the money. Turns out, they have succeeded at times.
Many Facebook users have posted this issue on their timeline warning their friends not to fall for such a scam but unfortunately many have been duped into transferring money to these rogues. Frauds like these have been prevalent on the platform since March 2020.
How to know it’s a scam?
You have to be a bit more vigilant when it comes to spotting scams like these. The first thing you should do whenever you receive such requests on Facebook is to check the identity of the person by going to their Facebook profile. You also have the option to visit the person’s profile on Facebook Messenger.
So how to spot of the account is fake or genuine? It’s simple:
- Check the number of mutual friends/friends. Fake accounts usually have a lesser number.
- Search for the same profile name on Facebook to confirm whether it’s a duplicate or not.
- You should also go through the profile information of that account.
Make sure you inform the person whose identity is being compromised and used for fraud. This will also help them spread the message and inform people on their friend list to not entertain such requests. You can also report the profile as fake by going to the profile and selecting the ‘Find support or report profile’ option.
You can also make sure that you’re profile picture is not misused by locking it by going to your Facebook profile and clicking on your profile picture to view it. Then, click on the options to the bottom left and click on ‘Turn on Profile Picture Guard’ from the popup. This will put a badge on your profile picture which others cannot copy. You can also lock your profile photos and albums from people not on your friend list by toggling the option in Facebook’s Privacy Settings.
You have the tools to protect your online identity, it’s just that you have to be more aware.