By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

A Facebook scam that almost caught me

Prediction for 2011:  Facebook scams will become larger in number and more sophisticated in content. 2010 was a "breakthrough" of sorts --  for me, at any rate, I stopped seeing Facebook as a spam-free zone where I could be trusting, a loss of trust that started when I received several friend requests from attractive young women I didn't know.
 
Late last year a Facebook friend started chatting with me on the Facebook's IM-type function. He said hi and I said hi back. He asked me if I was busy. I was working on something I was writing, so I wrote that I was pretty busy but hoped we could chat later. He then said he had recently taken an interesting quiz on which he had made a number of stupid mistakes and wondered if I could take it to see whether I made the same mistakes. He then sent me the link for the quiz.  I wrote back that I was busy and therefore couldn't take it immediately but I'd do it later and get back to him. He then wrote me repeating that he hoped I would take it and tell him which questions I got wrong so we could compare. I then went back to work, thinking I'd go back and check the quiz out later.
 
I didn't think about this whole incident too much again until later in the afternoon, when I suddenly asked myself whether this IM "chat" might have been a scam. The Facebook friend was in China, with only occasional Facebook access through the Great Firewall of China using proxy servers. The messages included an Internet link, a worrisome sign.
 
I sent this Facebook friend a conventional e-mail -- remember, the kind being rendered obsolete by texting and other instant messaging -- to ask whether he had chatted with me recently on Facebook. Within a day, the reply came back: He hadn't. The chat was a scam. Who knows what would have happened had I opened the link.
 
What made the scam plausible was, to some extent, that it appeared as chat and not a message, but above all that there was dialogue -- when I wrote something, responses came back. I now realize these responses were canned, but I didn't suspect that while the chat was occurring.
 
It was very lucky that I genuinely was busy when this link appeared and didn't have time to open it. Had I been less busy, I am almost certain I would have. The scam penetrated my defenses.
 
Any other readers been at the receiving end of convincing cyber scams -- Facebook or otherwise -- recently?

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jan 04, 2011 at 12:09 PM


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