BBB Warns: Your Facebook Friends Could be Hackers, Scam Artists and ID Thieves (Oh My!)

January 22, 2009

Social networking Web sites are a great way to find old classmates, stay connected with friends and even make new friends. Unfortunately, hackers now use Facebook and similar sites to disseminate viruses or steal identities.

Your Better Business Bureau offers advice on ways to prevent hackers, scammers and ID thieves from becoming your “friends.” Common social networking schemes include:

Friend in Distress

The “friend in distress” scam begins with a message on Facebook from a friend saying he’s in a dire situation – such as stranded in a foreign country – and needs money wired to him. What the recipient doesn’t know is that their friend’s account has been hacked and the message was sent by scammers. If the Facebook user wires money, they have no way of recovering the funds after learning their friend is actually safe and sound.

Phishing Friends

Koobface has made the social networking site rounds via MySpace and most recently on Facebook. The victim receives a message from a friend saying “You look awesome in this video” or “You look funny in this video” and includes a link to an outside Web site to view the video. Clicking on the link opens a window that claims the victim needs to download an updated version of Flash. Agreeing to the update installs the virus onto the victim’s computer. The virus monitors the user’s Internet activity and potentially steals personal information. Victims of Koobface have a difficult time removing the virus and in some cases scrap their computers completely.

Viral Wall Post

Another recent Facebook scam takes advantage of a social networker’s fears that pictures and information posted on Facebook could be made very public. The user receives a post from a friend saying something like, “hey do u realize your face book picture is all over <link to Web site>”.  The wall posts vary, but all invariably link to an outside Web site that supposedly has the user’s photos.  Facebook warns that clicking on the link will allow hackers to gain access to the user’s personal account and post the same message – seemingly coming from the victim – on their friends’ walls.

BBB offers the following advice for staying safe on social networking sites:

  • Be wary of messages that direct you to another Web site via a hyperlink.
  • Attempt to contact a friend in need by phone or e-mail to confirm his or her situation.
  • Make sure your computer’s operating system and antivirus and firewall software are current.
  • Keep important information private.
  • Be selective when choosing friends.

Start With Trust. For more advice on staying safe online go to or call 470-484-1348 or 800-564-0371 for reliable consumer tips and information.