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Watch Out for ‘Friends’ asking for help on Facebook

There are countless scams being perpetrated on Facebook at all times, but every now and then a particularly insidious one pops up. There's a new one spreading that goes something like this:

  • You receive a friend request from someone you don’t know, but decide to accept it because he is already friends with several of your other friends.

  • You start talking to one another and quickly become pretty close friends (as Facebook friends go). Perhaps you even begin communicating outside of Facebook (phone, texting, etc.).

  • Over time you build up trust in your new friend as well as a certain amount of emotional attachment. Now he’s ready to strike because he senses that the iron is hot.

  • Your friend sends you a message or calls with the news that he’s going overseas for a long-awaited vacation. Once “there” he sends regular reports about how nice the weather is, how beautiful the beach is, how great the food is. You begin to actually enjoy the “vacation” along with him via his messages.

  • But then you receive a very different kind of message. He has been robbed or his hotel room has been ransacked. His wallet is gone, and so is all of his cash and credit/debit cards.

  • The local police are working on the case, but in the meantime he has no way of paying expenses, buying food or even returning home. He hates to ask, but could you possibly send him some cash to see him through this crisis?

  • He’ll gladly pay you back when he gets back home...

  • Although you have an uneasy feeling in your gut about the situation, you like the guy and really want to believe him so you decide to to whatever you can to help him out. You wire him some money, or even worse, send him your back account or credit/debit card information so he can withdraw just enough cash to make it back home.

  • The next thing you know your bank account is empty and/or your credit card is maxed out. You have been scammed, and good! Although you know the guy needs to be stopped and sent to jail, you hesitate to tell anyone lest they believe your are an idiot.

Well, you aren’t an idiot. You are a caring, trusting person who was taken advantage of in every way possible. Your new “friend” took advantage of your kindness, plain and simple.

Here are two ways to prevent it from happening:

1 – Be careful who you accept friend requests from. I’m not saying you should never accept friend requests from strangers if the two of you have mutual friends. That’s called expanding your circle of friends, and it can often be a good thing.

But that being said, you do need to make sure the person really is who he claims to be by checking out his profile and timeline carefully. If the info there is sparse or of a very generic nature, don’t accept the request.

If all that looks OK, contact a couple of your mutual friends and ask how they know the person, and for how long. If they “met” him just recently in the same manner you did, be very careful.

2 – Never, under any circumstances should you send money or details about your financial accounts to someone that you only “know” via the Internet, even if you have become extremely emotionally attached to the person. Simply tell him that you feel bad for his situation, but you simply are not in a position to be of help financially.

If the person is telling the truth (the odds of which are virtually zero), the American consulate in the other country and his own family will see to it that he gets the help he needs. That is not your job as a Facebook friend.

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