Fraudsters hacking Facebook accounts to ask friends for debt help
17 September 2010
Facebook users have been urged to be extra vigilant as gangs of fraudsters are hacking into users' accounts and sending messages to their contacts pleading for money.
The scam involves criminals acting as a user's friend or family member and asking for money, as they claim to be in financial difficulty or have debt problems.
Recently, The Sunday Times newspaper highlighted a series of cases including that of Abigail Pickett, a British ski instructor living in France.
Abigail was horrified to learn that her account was hacked into by a fraudster, who then managed to persuade a friend of hers to send him over a thousand pounds.
28-year-old Fabrizio Troilo, a geologist from Italy, believed Ms Pickett was in financial trouble and that she had lost her mobile phone. He sent £1,250 to a Western Union post at a beauty salon in Manchester's controversial district, Moss Side.
It was only when Mr Trolilo received another email from Pickett's account complaining that the amount didn't add up because of the commission and exchange rates that alarm bells starting ringing.
Realising she been hacked into, Ms Pickett contacted the police. Sadly, it seems, there is little she can do. The Manchester-based shop where the money was wired to confirmed they received an order for Pickett, but insisted they always ask for identification before handing over money.
When Ms Pickett rang Facebook, they told her that her account had been hijacked from Nigeria and that she should contact the French police.
Incredulous, Pickett told The Sunday Times: "The only physical place where a crime was committed was in Manchester. If my bag had been stolen in Princess Road, would the police have told me to contact the French police?"
Gordon Snow, assistant director of the FBI's cyber crime division, told the newspaper: "Users fall victim to the schemes due to a higher level of trust typically displayed while using social networking sites."
Users of Facebook, as well as other social networking sites, are now being warned to protect their passwords and log-in details carefully in order to curb these dangerous hackers.