Your best friend contacts you on Facebook to tell you they have lost their mobile phone and all of their money on an implausible spur-of-the-moment trip to Lagos. Can you help by advancing them a few hundred bucks until they get home?
Yes, that’s right: Nigerian scammers are targeting Facebook and other social networking sites in their latest ruse to extract cash from the gullible.
Australian Karina Wells was contacted by a friend on Facebook requesting money for a ticket home after apparently becoming stranded in Lagos, the Nigerian capital. Wells exchanged messages with the would-be fraudster in an attempt to work out if her friend was really in trouble. Although the scammer’s English was pretty good, Wells was suspicious, noting that her ‘friend’ was using American slang such as ‘cellphone’ (instead of ‘mobile phone’, which is more common in Australia). Wells turned sleuth on her scammer and extracted as much information from him as possible before reporting him to Facebook and the authorities.
Social networking sites such as Facebook provide a fertile ground for fraudsters; once they manage to infiltrate a victim’s account, they have access to their entire network of friends and are able to impersonate the victim or send messages which propagate viruses or trojans, which may in turn enable the infiltration of more accounts.
Nigeria has the dubious honour of being the world’s cyber-fraud capital, with ‘advance fee fraud’ attempts originating from the country so numerous that the scam is known better by its article number in the Nigerian Criminal Code; 419.
Facebook and other social networking sites may breathe new life into what has become a rather tired and hack kneed approach to internet fraud. Almost everyone with an email account has received a crudely misspelled 419 scam attempt at some point, but approaches through the medium of social networking are sure to catch out some otherwise-savvy individuals. This is good news for the fraudsters - Nigerian or otherwise - but bad news for the rest of us. Prepare to be inundated with more laughably unconvincing pleas for cash; coming soon to your social network.
by Andy Carvell