NEWARK – Social media scams, using hijacked user accounts on Facebook and other social media sites, are on the rise and Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Acting Consumer Affairs Director Thomas R. Calcagni are warning New Jersey consumers to be wary of “friends” who ask them for money.
A typical scenario involves everyone listed in the address book of a hacked user’s account being asked to wire money to a foreign country where the “friend” is vacationing and needs money because the “friend” was purportedly robbed or has a medical emergency.
“People lower their guard when someone they know from a social networking site needs their help. Rather than sending an email to random people, these thieves have learned they can improve their chances by hacking into social networking accounts and then directing pleas for money to the account holder’s list of friends,” Dow said.
Some common warning signs that a criminal is trying to hijack a user’s account while on the social networking site include:
- Anything that asks you to paste a code or URL into your browser;
- Quizzes, polls or contests that require you to provide personal information such as your social security number, credit card number or bank account information;
- Requests that you update Flash Player or other programs, or that you download a new program; and
- Anything that requires you to link to another page and invites your friends to that page.
In order to protect yourself, you should be wary of these warning signs and guard against any actions that would provide cyber criminals with the tools necessary to break into your account.
If you can’t log into your account, this is a warning sign that it’s been hacked. Contact the social website to report this and to have your account disabled. Email accounts can be disabled by contacting your service provider. To protect your accounts from being hacked, use strong passwords and change them regularly. It is also recommended that you use different passwords for different accounts. Strong passwords contain a larger number of characters and the characters are a mix of upper and lower case letters, numerals and symbols.
Consumers can verify if an email from a social network “friend” asking for money is legitimate by checking its point of origination. To do this, go to the “help” page of your email account and find out how to check the source and routing of an email. Multiple forwarding of the email through various accounts before it reached you is a warning sign of a possible scam.
“Technology has unfortunately brought con men into our homes via the internet, emails and social networking sites. These criminals are using the mask of false identity to rob consumers of their hard-earned money. We want to empower consumers by educating them how to spot these scams and avoid becoming victims,” said Thomas R. Calcagni, acting consumer affairs director.
The Division of Consumer Affairs reviews consumer complaints about suspected online scams. To file a complaint about a suspected scam, go to www.nj.gov/oag/ca/ocp/ocpform.htm or call 1-800-242-5846 (toll-free within N.J.) or 1-973-504-6200.
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