The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

February 17, 2014

Sheriff Kessler warns of Facebook scam

By Chris Boyd
Register-Herald Reporter

— Some say that these days you really don’t know who your friends are. This might be especially true for social networking sites where an unknown criminal could masquerade as a trusted chum to gain your confidence.

In a press release from the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, residents are warned to be wary of a scam that uses Facebook and Facebook Messenger to this end.

Sheriff Steve Kessler said that the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office has reports from people who have received messages from Facebook friends stating the friend has won a large amount of money and has seen the individual’s name on the winners list. The “friend” then forwards a link to the website where the individual can determine how much they have won.

When they click on the link they are contacted through either Facebook or Facebook Messenger and asked to provide information to “verify” that their name appears on the winners list. They may be asked to provide their full name, address, age and telephone number but are NOT asked to provide any banking information.

They are then instructed that they can “choose” the level of the prize they wish to receive, from $25,000 up to $500,000. The amount of the prize chosen dictates the amount of a “processing fee,” which can range from $1,500 up to $5,000, that individuals are asked to submit via Western Union.

There is a great deal of pressure to do this “quickly” and individuals are advised “not to tell anyone” about their good fortune. The “representative” will often ask individuals to forward a lesser amount, as much as they can convince an individual to access, in order to expedite the processing of the award.

Kessler says residents need to be aware that this setup is a fraud. You will never be asked for your banking account information or asked to submit a “processing fee” for any legitimate raffle or contest.

People should also be aware that the “friend” sending you the information may not be your actual friend or acquaintance. Facebook accounts are often the target of hackers who use the friend list of the hacked account as a list of potential victims.

If you believe that your Facebook account has been hacked, you need to deactivate it and contact Facebook. It’s also a good idea to notify all of your contacts to be aware of messages they may receive from you that may not be legitimate.

Kessler continued that if you do send money via Western Union, be aware that you will not be able to recover it and it is highly unlikely that law enforcement will be able to trace the identity of the individual(s) involved in the scam.

“Always remember, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,’” said Kessler.

“Don’t verify information for anybody,” Kessler added. “Don’t respond.”

The sheriff wasn’t negative about Facebook, referring to it as a “good tool” for getting the word out about these types of crimes. He said a mixture of age groups  have been targeted in the reported incidents.

Anyone who is contacted about winning any type of prize who thinks that they might be the potential victim of a scam is urged to contact their local law enforcement agency.

— E-mail: cboyd@register-herald.com