Facebook Resurrects the 419 Scam

Facebook has allowed advanced fee fraudsters to deliver more personalized and targeted scam letters to their intended victims.  These so-called “419” scams (named after the section of the Nigerian penal code for Obtaining Property by false pretences) gained popularity through the use of letters and then email.  More about the scam on Wikipedia.  It seems absurd that anyone would fall for early versions of the scam – as letters were often poorly written and obviously fraudulent.  Over the years, scammers became more creative and diligent in enhancing their work product and the letters became much more legitimate-looking, although the content of the letters often belied the scam to anyone who took the time to think about it.  

But now with Facebook, thieves have found a whole new way to target victims, using the technology against itself.  Social networks that allow users to added trusted friends as connections have an inherent vulnerability.  If someone hijacks an account, they can effectively insert themselves into communications with a very high level of trust and authority – at least for a short time until the ruse is uncovered.  MSNBC recently posted an example here.  Facebook users beware, and report your account if it becomes compromised.


2 Responses to Facebook Resurrects the 419 Scam

  1. Great article. Another big danger is clicking on the shortened links that seem to prevail on Twitter. There’s no way to know what’s behind that curtain, and it seems that sending links is the norm in these services.

  2. James Ruotolo says:

    True. Shortened URLs are convenient but they hide the destination farily easily. Some shortening services (like TinyURL) offer a preview feature that allows you to see a screenshot of your destination before actually visiting the site. In the TinyURL example, visit the TinyURL website to enable this feature for your browser via a setting in a local cookie.

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