previous run-ins I’d had with Indian-based scam artists such as iYogi. There I had written down interaction notes and secondly, ordered a potential victim to get off the phone. It was time to do something like that again – even if it embarrassed Greg.
A quick googling of the main terms — Facebook scam, Messenger scam, government grant – into a search engine revealed two things. First, it was not Greg at all who was chatting with me. It was a criminal somewhere else, probably in Nigeria, who had likely hacked Greg’s account. In fact, there were several fairly recent articles posted about this scheme.
Oh no, wish I had not been so talkative. Second, this is an established scam where the criminals promise a large sum of money—it just takes a certain amount of your private data to fill in the forms and also around $1,500 to deliver the grant sums to your account.
The link to Jack Bailey stood in Messenger, just waiting for a click from me, like Pandora opening that legendary box. What if the offer was real? Was Jack real? He looked real with a chin chiseled out of granite and a solid job in the State Department. What would happen if I clicked?
Instead of clicking, I looked for traces of Jack Bailey elsewhere: There was not a mention of him on LinkedIn or Facebook. Then I looked closer at the message and noticed a few things.
Despite the same red tractor picture, Messenger was warning me that this was not coming from Greg’s usual accounts on Messenger and Facebook. Somehow, the crooks had hacked the account.
The name was also odd. It wasn’t Jack Bailey, it was “Jackbailey101.”
There are places on Messenger and Facebook to report such scams. But beyond shutting down Jack Bailey 101, it’s more important for people to realize that these schemes are always going to be out there and they should take some common-sense preventive actions. As Facebook mentions, two-factor authentication and not clicking on suspicious links are a start.
One important defense factor was not listed though – presence of mind. If I hadn’t been in the middle of a certain home construction project, I would have noticed a lot more suspicious details about the entire interaction.
Remember the Rule of Duck: If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, and walks like a duck — it probably is a duck. If something looks a little fraudulent, sounds a little fraudulent — it probably is fraudulent.
Virtual friendships have their pluses and minuses – and scams are definitely on the negative side. This one made me realize how much I assume that the person I am chatting with really and truly is that person. And as for Greg, I’ll try to contact him directly about his account hack. And after no direct communication between us for a couple years, it’s time to talk. Really.