“Hello, Gorgeous…” Impersonated on Facebook

If you’re a woman… No, wait. If you’re human and breathing and have an account on Facebook, odds are you’ve been approached by someone who sends you some variant of the following:

Hello Gorgeous, i have only five seconds,would you allow me to know you more with two seconds and if there’s any chemistry within then we will spend the remaining 3 seconds together and i bet you full of joy and happiness. i hope to read from you soonest, I’m Brian

Sure we will.

Normally, I just click the “report spam” buttons and ignore the messages.

report-spam  report-spam2

But in addition to the very good chance that these are (a) phishing scams; (b) 419 scams; (c) porn ads; or (d) attempts to trick people into installing malware on their PC; or, (e) some other scam – these things are often also a form of identity theft. And if someone was using your likeness or name to commit a crime, you’d probably want someone – anyone – to contact the real you and maybe give you the heads’ up, so you could report it to the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security’s CyberCrimes Center, Customs, and/or Facebook Security.

Well, never mind whether that last one’s likely to be effective – it’s not – but you should do it anyway. At least you’ll have it on record that you tried.

Deconstructing & Learning to Recognize the “Lonely Hearts” Scammer

There are an appalling number of people out there willing to prey on the tired, the unwary, the needy, the gullible, the trusting, the caring, the horny, the lonely, the eager, the vain, and the downright stupid people out there. You can even be smart, net savvy, and fairly wary and still fall for these things. Here’s what happens:

  1. The scammer chooses his mark: preferably someone with many Friends.
  2. He or she writes a lovely note of introduction, maybe sends a Friend request with it. The initial note may be completely harmless – just a “let’s be friends” suggestion.
  3. Once the scammer connects with an unwary mark, he begins to scour the Friends of his new connection, sending them lovely notes of introduction.
  4. These notes appear to come from a “Mutual Friend.” Thus, two things happen: (a) Facebook lets the private message go straight to the addressee’s Inbox, instead of relegating it to Spam or Other; and (b) the trusting recipient notices the “Mutual Friend” and – odds are good – doesn’t want to offend this person, so they click Accept. Sure. Why not?

The “lonely hearts spammer” has invariably set up a profile, in advance, that presents him as a handsome, caring man who loves his mother, children, and puppies. He “Likes” love and hearts and roses. Here’s “Brian Adams” from this morning’s latest example:

brian-adams2m brian-adams1m

Seems harmless – he has such a winning smile, loves his mom, and has an adorable puppy dog. Well, I’m married, and I’m pretty sure my public profile mentions this – so the first red flag (for me) is that the guy isn’t even interested enough to browse the public parts of my page before practically committing himself for life. Or the next three seconds, anyway.

The women use a different tactic: They find photos of sexy girls in tightly laced corsets revealing ample boobage, skimpy shorts and panties, winning smiles, and long legs. They promise a good time. I get these, too, sometimes – they’re not very discriminating. I always picture the real people behind these as an internet cafe somewhere in Nigeria with a lot of 17 year old boys pretending to be girls, figuring it’s okay to scam a guy who will fall for it.

Anyway, back to Brian, here… These sorts usually have hundreds of girlfriends. That’s right, all their friends are girls. A veritable Facebook harem. Usually, these lucky fellows are chummy with female celebrities, lesser-known models, and mail-order brides. Sometimes, their Friend list is so full of drop-dead gorgeous that a woman might feel flattered to be included. I was slightly insulted, one day, to find only puffy, middle-aged women on one of these guy’s walls – the most attractive among them being an elderly drag queen. Some spammers and scammers are just lazy.

So, I’m looking at “Brian Adams” and it occurs to me: This one’s not lazy – he’s fairly smart and he’s cocky. He’s been setting this up since May (unless he’s learned how to back-date Facebook posts), and he’s showing me only one mutual friend, no other women, and I’m pretty sure that’s not his photo. The cover photo looks like a professional shot to promote a business – not a candid “here’s me and mom, see – I even cook for her!” shot. This guy doesn’t look like he’s looking for love in all the wrong places – he doesn’t need to.

I have watched these people – live, in real time – lure family and friends from the real person’s account to the scammer’s account in under an hour. “Oh, my account was hacked, I can’t log in, so I started this new one…” This way, they get access to all that “Friends only” private info you’ve got, often including your email, cell phone, etc. But if they can chat you up, convince you to invest in their business, donate to their cause, rescue them after a mugging in London, or whatever… that’s golden.

I’d bet good money this “Brian Adams” has stolen the photos; I’m sure of it. But how to prove it? Here’s one quick way to check:

  1. Click the cover photo – the one of him with his mom. Nice, unique face shot – clearly shows them both.
  2. Right click, select View image, grab the URL from the address bar: https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/467866_174994779330559_52411888_o.jpg
  3. Go to Google Image Search: https://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en&tab=ii.
  4. Click the camera icon in the search box.
  5. Enter the image URL and click the blue Search by image button:
    image-search2
  6. Here’s the search result:
    image-search

Huh. Brian’s name isn’t Brian? Quelle surprise! I’m willing to bet that “Brian Adams” has stolen images from this nice Burbank realtor’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Dfogger  (It’s important not to make any rash assumptions; the next time I tried this exercise, on a woman, I got lots of search results – she was going by about 19 different aliases and had been written up on several sites devoted to exposing 419 Scammers. She also has several different Facebook pages under several different names – and I have no idea whether any of them are real, or – assuming one was real – was it the real scammer’s Facebook page? So you have to be sure you’re not exonerating OR accusing the wrong person.) I checked the realtor out, found his real Facebook page, videos, and website. Satisfied he’s the real deal and the guy in “Brian Adams’s” photos, I emailed him and called him. I hope he reports this to the authorities. I’m 99.9% sure he had no idea this was going on – why would he?

In any case, I would hope that if someone did this to me, my friends would alert me to it quickly. And if not, I’d hope some kindly stranger took it upon themselves to try.

But scammers wouldn’t do this if it didn’t work – that’s the scary thing. So be alert, and do your part to stop them, too. Don’t be paranoid, but do be wary. Have some sort of secret handshake. Know how your friends “talk” to you online. If you have the tiniest smidgeon of doubt, don’t Friend your own mother. And don’t Friend anyone just because you and they appear to have “Mutual Friends.” Don’t Friend them just because you recognize a picture on their page. Ask your mutual friends about them, first.

Related Articles:

“Facebook glitch lets spear phishers impersonate users’ friends and family”
http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2012/08/31/facebook-glitch-spear-phishing/

“‘I thought it was my sister’: Woman loses $2,000 to Facebook scam”
http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/i-thought-it-was-my-sister-woman-loses-2-000-120305

“The Top 5 Facebook Scams to Watch out for”
http://netsecurity.about.com/od/securityadvisorie1/a/The-Top-5-Facebook-Scams-Myths.htm

“Scammers Set Up Fake Facebook Profiles for Religious Leaders”
http://www.bbb.org/blog/2013/06/scammers-set-up-fake-facebook-profiles-for-religious-leaders/

 

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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20 thoughts on ““Hello, Gorgeous…” Impersonated on Facebook”

  1. I’ve had people with the photos of attractive much younger men try to “sweet talk” me. My photo on Facebook is NOT one of a younger, much more attractive me, so I know they are not honest … or they are very blind and dumb. As much as I write about my husband, if they bother to read anything, they know I’m not interested. I mean, when would I have time or energy? *laugh*

    1. I had a 17 year old from Lagos proposing to me in Google Chat, one day. I said “You do realize I’m probably older than your mother, right?” He didn’t care. His bio claimed he’d attended a university in the US. He didn’t know what state it was in! Block, report, repeat.

      I figure it’s worth the time to block and report, if it saves someone trouble, loss, or heartache.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Pygmies at the LakeMy Profile

  2. I regard everyone, nearly everyone, with suspicion in Facebook. Cousins and town mates are not spared. I like the steps you outlined. More weapons added to my armory. A few misguided souls send me messages, but they and their intelligence gathering fail. Rather beastly messages. Never fail to make my skin crawl. Such poor disregard for the language.

    1. Smart. I once chatted with someone actively impersonating a coworker. It was a little scary. I was simultaneously warning the coworker’s family members and trying to get hold of the coworker so he could report it. The guy was telling everyone that the REAL person was the hacker, and trying to get them to report him and get his REAL account shut down. Meanwhile, I was asking him how we met. He was making things up left and right, just trying to be vague enough I wouldn’t notice. I asked him what his favorite phrase was during meetings. And what projects we’d worked on together. Instead of disconnecting, he just tried to get me to support his “favorite political candidate” (also impersonated!!) with donations.

      It’s because of people like this that I no longer make donations requested over the phone or through PMs. Reputable organizations understand and will send forms in the mail, but I’m cautious there, too – never say ANYTHING that sounds like you’re agreeing to pledge or pay money to anyone.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Pygmies at the LakeMy Profile

  3. Good advice. Well written. Great graphics!
    Take a bow.

    Of course, this causes a problem for me….

    1. Will La madame Cerise evvvver believe that I actually do exist?
    2. Will all my harmless flirting evvver pay off?

    Perhaps now is the time to hit her up to invest in my singing and dancing Orangutan act…?
    Probably best not to do that….

    Besides, Holly is probably thinking to herself:
    “I checked you out Pete. 8 ways from Sunday. Nobody could invent a persona as warped and weird as you are. Thus you are, sadly, real.

    I see. I net, therefore I am!

    1. 1. Of course – for all the reasons you stated, and then some.

      2. No. (But I’m still trying to sell Amy B. on your charms. She’s not talking to me, either, for some reason!)

      3. Singing, dancing Orangutan act? That might get her attention.

      4. (Dragging in another thread from another place, because I’m lazy and you’ll get it): Your value? Priceless. Irreplaceable. 🙂
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Pygmies at the LakeMy Profile

      1. Holly:

        1. So basically…. you have me completely sussed out, and the only reason I am not being blackmailed… is that you know I have Zero. Fascinating. NSA, you SHOULDA hired Holly. She would have told you the truth!
        Tom Cruise: They can’t HANDLE the Truth!
        Stewart/Colbert: Hey! I could use some truthiness!

        2. Thanks! But apparently, She only talks to elite wealthy educators who can back Her insane educational ideas, and desires to be on TED, and also, incidentally, take over the world….

        And she wants to be an Empress, the likes of which even Catherine the Great … could Nevver come close to. It would be a truly fascinating social experiment…. (I could make it happen with about 2.3762 Billion in change…)

        Also: If these people are young, male, and very handsome, and are willing to compliment Her a minimum of 12 times a day, then it is even better. (She is rather exigent in Her requirements. Empresses are like that.)

        And you and I are in league with Her evil Arch Enemies: HP and Mirthcosoft. She worships only at the Altar of Apple. A number of women have been falling for Apples for years, as you know…

        So, somewhere, somehow, sometime, someplace, I either did or did not do, said or did not say something. Or I interrupted something She was doing. Since She was a Star Wars fan, I thought I was safe. How was I to know she owned a Genuine Transporter? I have been sent back in time, and beamed, DIRECTLY, to the 126.653 meters below lowest level of Dante’s Inferno. And am chained there with beryllium steel chains. And me without James Bond’s fancy laser watch!

        To be Her “Best Female Friend”, is easy:

        A. You must arrange that you cannot possibly be anywhere nearly as good looking as She is. She is phenomenally vain and jealous. In your case, this would be very, incredibly, expensively, and brutally hard to do… Let’s face it, the plastic surgery alone… Plus dying your hair green everyday. Won’t happen… (Well ok. Maybe when you are 98….)

        B. She wants to be a video star. So you would have to publicize her. And you would have to do a far better job than I have done… Despite a few minor efforts.

        C. My skull. Mounted on a black teak base. Turned into a candy dish. With a black Naugahide liner inside. Sitting on a mauve velvet cushion. Green LED lights in the eye sockets. With the top opening up to reveal some luscious bon-bons. (She would like a 1 year supply.) Delivered to Her on a platinum platter. By 12 merry men. All who must be able to both bow and curtsy. And each must bring Her a bottle of expensive wine.

        But then, if you had THAT, my skull would be on the corner of your desk, as you delicately and suavely chose a tidbit of chocolate from within… (She would then be insanely jealous of you, as would Caitlin Doughty, Megan Rosenbloom, and possibly Wendy Middleton. You would then need a home security system worthy of the Louvre, or Fort Knox.)

        3. The monkey act, just might get Her attention…. But, then She would need a song to sing with it. Preferably by Gaga or Blondie, lyrics and music included. Sorry, not within my talent range….

        I was hoping you would provide some HP T-shirts for the Ape. I’m size medium. The Orangutan would like a large….. I figured the Simian act would be more in line for you and me. {Ed Sullivan: And now, right here on our stage, a mighty big shoe…. To open up, we have the evver witty, and gorgeous Holly J, with 2 trained Primates! (I know, this assumes I would be trainable. But I have had 2 cats train me. So the situation is NOT hopeless.)

        We could start small, in Peoria, and if the act goes over there, join William Shatner’s stand up comedy troupe as an intro act. I would be your straight man. Think about it. All we need to do is find and purchase the Orangutan… He’s currently held in Zambeezia with the $66.324 million dollars your uncle Elmo found in the extinct volcano, just before he was mistaken for a Big Mac, and eaten by Pygmies. Not the algae eating ones. Their cousins.

        4. You are the first person in history to say I am “priceless and invaluable”. They should have sent you to deal with Assad. He’d be eating out of your sandals. (Advice: Throw them away after, really … UGH! YUK!)

        NO, I think even The League of [Sometimes, but not Always], Ordinary Gentlemen, would be befuddled here…. But perhaps the above may inspire you in some way.
        SCOTTY: If ye canna do better than him lass … Ye shouldna call thyself an authoress…

        Consider: I gave you 5 new characters:
        1. The Orangutan.
        2. Your late, belated, beloved, lucky then unlucky, Uncle Elmo.
        3. A Crazy Blonde Vengeful High School teacher, with plans for Global Domination. (Here, even Bond quits, and runs off to join a monk house.)
        4. A Global Empress, in love with with high tech, who rules the world with wit, and singing and dancing edicts.
        5. An insane Canadian. There are several in my country. We can spare 1 or 2…

        I figure, if I keep writing this silly stuff, I may not be able to buy you bananas stuffed with diamonds (There was a cartoon or a song about that, back in the 1960’s.), but by golly, I will have come close to driving you there…. To the bananas. Not Zambeezia.

  4. I don’t accept any friend request unless I know them. I’ve received scam messages like that before, but they seem so obvious that I ignore them. Then again, I’m happily married and maybe one of my single female friends would fall for a scam like that, in the hopes of falling in love. It’s sickening how people plan on emotions. 🙁
    Aleta recently posted…VegetarianMy Profile

    1. Married people are not immune from these scams, which often start with reassurances that nothing more than platonic friendship is sought, and the attractive quality that compels them to request a connection is your “sunny smile.”

      And you may think you know the person. This is the scary thing – I’ve actually chatted with scammers, real time, who were impersonating friends. (If you know your friend well enough, you can ask them to tell you something only the two of you would know – something NOT posted on your Wall or blog. If you don’t know them well enough, don’t trust them if they say their account was hacked, or they just decided, on a whim, to close the old one and start a new one, or whatever. Not worth the risk. Even then – you can be had. Never be paranoid OR overly complacent. Just cautious and careful.) We can all be pretty sure that no one has mugged our friends in London (if they’ve been mugged, I assume my friends are smart enough to seek assistance from the police – I hear there’s a decent police force in London). We can all be pretty sure we have NOT just won or inherited millions of – whatever, dollars, lira, yen – or been asked by some friend of a friend of a third cousin’s, twice removed, to help them move money out of its country of origin. And online dating – well, if you’re actively seeking companionship, odds are it’s not from random strangers on Facebook. There are dating sites, real friends of friends, bars, universities, church – plenty of places to meet nice, real people. Stay safe and sane out there! 🙂
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted…Pygmies at the LakeMy Profile

  5. By the way, I’m about 99% sure that this post is being monitored by the scam artist.

    If I’m right, I know what country you’re from. I know your IP address and your telecom provider. That means the NSA probably does, too (and for once, I’m pretty happy about that!) And 9+ hours on any post is just slightly obsessive, dude. Move ON already.

    I’m sure there are both easier AND more challenging marks. 🙂
    Holly Jahangiri recently posted…Pygmies at the LakeMy Profile

  6. Excellent post Holly and indeed I will share this too!

    Yes,I do have many connections on Social media like FB and for sure I don’t know them all in person, but most connections are from groups or websites that I trust.
    Indeed I do receive daily scam invites from scarcely clothed ladies sent by mobile phones and yes I report these all as Spam to FB.
    Offcourse among my contacts of Friends there will be scammers, but that’s not a reason to keep every new face out of my contactlist.
    I love to meet nice and sincere people from anywhere of this planet and the not so nice people will pop up very soon when they start sending strange messages. A easy filter to delete them in one click! So my advice is to test people if you don’t trust them, and if they are sincere then why not accept them as a new friend? Who knows you find a new friend for life! 🙂

    1. That’s so true – the problem is, some people just see “mutual friend” and forget to double-check. That lets the scammer get to the inbox of ALL your friends, and some are more gullible than others. This one? I’m pretty sure I know their IP address. They sent me a PM on Facebook (before their account was terminated) and asked me to take down this post and stop “back mailing” them. What they didn’t realize was how obvious their haunting my blog – and only this post – would be. I’ve had no contact with them whatsoever. But I think there are a LOT of them doing this and I think a few have even used this post to improve their scams. (They’re either modifying the photos or being more careful to use photos not found on Google images, for example – the last few have passed the most foolproof tests.) So there are real people behind these things and they’re not completely stupid – they’re rather clever and extremely unethical.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Copyright Essentials for WritersMy Profile

    2. Also, sites like Empire Avenue are problematic – they reward such connections, so everyone rushes to connect – just think, you and I have 127 mutual friends! Guess why? 😀 How many of those 127 do you ever exchange a genuine “Like” with, or comment with, outside of Empire Avenue? (I’d say “more than a few, but not 127, that’s for damned sure!”) And because most of the people we’ve met there and actually interacted with seem nice enough, we go “Oh, okay, sure – why not, they’re friends with Player A, and Player A seems a reasonable, discriminating fellow…” and pretty soon you’ve got a network of “trusting souls” and people who aren’t thinking things through at all. Obviously, I’m guilty of it, too – or you and I would never have 127 “mutual friends” outside of Empire Avenue! LOL
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Copyright Essentials for WritersMy Profile

  7. I read somewhere that the culture in Nigeria is such that it is good to scam people who are not of your group, and take money away from them.

    I don’t know if this is true, but the concept is a reasonable one: we’re the ingroup, and everyone else is a mark. Other groups and nations have been mentioned.

    If that is part of your built-in rearing and culture, then you are going to try to do that.

    Must be exhausting to create all those fake fronts and inheritance scams. And remunerative enough to make it worthwhile?
    Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt recently posted…Encouraging new writers: on the edge and without a netMy Profile

    1. I’ve read that, too. I don’t know if it’s true of ALL of Nigeria. I think the reputation they’ve got, as a nation, is an embarrassment to many. I’m sure there are groups that feel that way – “we’re the ingroup, everyone else is a mark” – everywhere in the world, but the “lads from Lagos” innovated it on the Internet. You enjoy low forms of humor? Check out 419Eater.com – they do a wonderful job of scambaiting and retaliation. It’s hilarious, in a mean-spirited way (normally, I’m very opposed to mocking people like this – I despise “People of Wal-Mart” – but these folks deserve to get a bit of their own.)

      1. I tried the 419eater site – but what they forget to mention is that while you’re using up the scammers time and resources, you’re also using up your good time and energy, as well as your resources.

        I charge $1,200 for an hour of my time. No one has paid me that yet, but it will happen some day. My energy goes where I want to put it – and most of it should go to my writing or I’m never going to finish – but the effort it would cost me to produce a coherent hour of my time for someone else would barely be covered by my fee.

        I’m glad there are people who try to divert the scammers; another one of those fun things I won’t get to participate in during this lifetime. My blessings on them – and a pox on all the scammers.
        Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt recently posted…Encouraging new writers: on the edge and without a netMy Profile

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