An increasing number of people are falling victim to internet scams targeting unsuspecting Facebook users. Edythe Schumacher is one of many who have fallen victim to such scams.
Schumacher, of Woodsfield, Ohio, lost $2,000 after a con artist hacked the Facebook of her sister, Susan Palmer, and messaged Schumacher, informing her of an opportunity to receive a loan from the government.
The scammer, who used the name of real retired FBI agent Chris Swecker, pulled a classic advance free loan scam, using the 21st century twist of technology to prey on his victim.
Schumacher provided the scammer with her cell phone number. She then received a caller identification number reading “Empowerment Gov54.” The scam artist instructed her to wire the money deposit to Patricia Casella in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Convinced, Schumacher wired the money, and never saw it again.
Scammers are using many traditional cons, such as telecommunications fraud or wire fraud, on Facebook, preying on those less technologically savvy than others.
Facebook’s accessibility gives con artists ultimate access to one’s personal life. The scammer can use the minimal information provided on the victim’s information page, such as their age, hometown, number of children/grandchildren, job, or alma mater to pull their heartstrings for money.
According to a recent report conducted by Gawker.com, Facebook has installed five different cookies that never log out its users. One of these cookies, called “a_user,” was removed after media upheaval because it allowed Facebook to view all pages opened on the user’s browser, not just the Facebook page.
Critics argue that Facebook must also make an effort to maximize the privacy of its users.
Another common scam used on Facebook includes the victim receiving a message from a loved one overseas, claiming robbery or arrest and begging the victim to wire them money urgently without telling anyone, primarily because they are embarrassed.
Cyber crime specialists tell Facebook users to be wary of anything described as “urgent.” Con artists demand urgency of payment so they can receive the money and disappear.
According to Ohio’s Attorney General’s office, in 2010, 7,304 Ohioans reported losing more than 10 million in cyber fraud.
Ohio’s attorney general Mike Dewine held a press conference today calling for tougher laws on cyber fraud, proposing legislation allowing the General Attorney’s office to investigate cyber fraud cases with subpoena power.
“Due to its complex nature, most local law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to investigate cyber fraud. Further hindering local investigations is the fact that most cyber fraud is reported to state and federal agencies because the crime occurs over the phone or Internet,” said Dewine.