by Sophie Bai

Facebook Messenger is a great way to keep up with friends and family, but it can also be a method for scammers to defraud you, so be aware. In recent times, there is an increased number of fake accounts being created, which can fall into many different types of scams. Examples include:

•    Friend of Friend / Relative

Some fake accounts are created and operated to entice you to trust them.
Here’s a likely scenario: a note arrives over Facebook Messenger that appears to be from a friend – right down to their name and photo – so you have no reason to question otherwise, at least at first.

“Hey Mike, how are ya?”

“I’m well, thanks. You?” you reply.

“Good, thanks. In fact, really good. Did you hear about the money I received from International Financial Ltd?”

As this was the first time you received such a message, your response may be, “That’s great, congrats!”. You may think it was something tied to your friend’s work, as he’s a financial analyst who currently works for a large financial company.

Then another note came with, “Here is the link, you should apply, too, as they’re granting a lot of money before the end of the financial year.”  As you think he is your trusted friend, you may quickly click the link and put your personal data there.  Bingo, you have given them all they need to rob you.

•    Romance

Another common scam are requests to “be friends” or “…get to know you”.  Some people create and operate fake accounts but may not ask for money; they simply crave attention.  Other fake accounts are created for the money.  These scammers are versed in spending time to build up their dependency. They may even send you a small amount of money to build up their credibility. Eventually, they need a large amount of money from you.

•    Fake Links / Click Jacking / Clickbaiting

This type of fraud centre around the use of fake links to things like free prizes and giveaways. The purpose of those links is to get the person who click on it to install malware on their device. These types of fraud, will try and get you to click on the link by giving you an emotional story or some other incentive to click. Once the malware is installed, the scammer has access to all your data which then may allow them to commit identity fraud.

•    To get to your employer

In some cases, the fraudster is not interested in you directly, but as an indirect way to attack your employer. This can be by compromising your work devices as a way into the corporate network.

So, how to protect yourself

•    Never accept an invitation from someone you don’t recognise fully and expect to hear from.
•    Even if you do know the person in the real life, be suspicious when receiving these kinds of messages over Facebook Messenger.  If you aren’t sure if it’s really your friend, contact them via phone, message — and confirm if it was sent by them.
•    Block the person who sent you the message and report them to Facebook right away from within Facebook Messenger.
Remember your protection starts with you, and you can’t rely on others to do it for you.

Sophie is a Senior Financial Analyst at Condon Advisory Group with over 8 years of experience in Personal and Corporate Insolvency.