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.
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:
- The scammer chooses his mark: preferably someone with many Friends.
- 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.
- Once the scammer connects with an unwary mark, he begins to scour the Friends of his new connection, sending them lovely notes of introduction.
- 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:
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:
- Click the cover photo – the one of him with his mom. Nice, unique face shot – clearly shows them both.
- 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
- Go to Google Image Search: https://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en&tab=ii.
- Click the camera icon in the search box.
- Enter the image URL and click the blue Search by image button:
- Here’s the search result:
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.
“Facebook glitch lets spear phishers impersonate users’ friends and family”
“‘I thought it was my sister’: Woman loses $2,000 to Facebook scam”
“The Top 5 Facebook Scams to Watch out for”
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