The true cost of mistaken identity online - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

The true cost of mistaken identity online

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -  We have warned you before about account takeovers on social networks.  We told you about the Grandparent's scam or the friend stuck in Europe scam. 

When your friend or loved one's account on social networks, such as Facebook, are hijacked and they ask you to send money it can seem real.  Now, there's a new twist on the scam that might trick you into giving up your hard earned cash. 

Social networks have added new features that are fun and can help you gain a little more certainty that you are really talking to the person you think you are connected to and not a fake.   However, we recently learned that cyber criminals have found a way to exploit even that. 

WBTV's Cyber Expert, Theresa Payton, tells us what to look for.

THE SCAM:

A woman was on Facebook and a picture of her sister popped up and invited her to an online chat. 

They chatted a bit and her sister encouraged her to apply for a government grant.  The catch?

All she had to do was pay a small up front fee of $2,000 and she'd be eligible for up to $500,000.  Her sister had just done this and it worked, she said. 

The problem is, the person communicating with her was not her sister.

The victim did not find out until she had already spent the $2,000 on the up front fee.

HOW IT WORKED:

To make it look real, the fake sister even mentioned that she could contact Chris Swecker.   There is a Chris Swecker who was an associate director with the FBI.  Unfortunately, the Chris Swecker in this case was a fake too and he encouraged her to wire the money. 

The fake Swecker told the woman how to wire the money over.  When he called her cell phone to explain this awesome deal, his caller id actually read a believable "Empowerment GOV54." 

She wired the money and the fraudsters ran away with her cash.

TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF:

1.  Never wire money in a hurry:  When someone says you must wire money by a deadline - this is a red flag!

2.  Get a verbal:  Insist that you talk to the friend or family member on the phone

3.  Strong passwords:  Keep those social networking accounts safe with strong passwords and different passwords across multiple accounts

RESOURCES:

To keep up with the latest scams try Facecrooks at:  http://facecrooks.com/

To report an internet scam, post a report at the FBI's internet center:  www.ic3.gov and at the FTC at www.ftc.gov

WORD OF THE WEEK:

GOOGLONYMOUS

A mashup of two words:  Google and Anonymous.  When you use Google search, it grabs your IP address, time of day, and search terms and enters them into a data base.  If you use someone else's computer or what's called a proxy server, you can search and they will not be able to track it to your IP address.

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