Edythe Schumacher logged onto the social networking site recently and a picture of her sister popped up immediately, inviting her into a Facebook chat. After a bit of small talk, Schumacher’s sister – Susan Palmer – egged her on to apply for a government grant, saying she’d just received one. For an up-front fee of $2,000, Schumacher was assured, she’d get access to up to $500,000.
Schumacher trusted her sister — and lost $2,000.
Apparently, Facebook impersonation scams have reached a new level of duplicity. Palmer’s account had been hacked, Schumacher says, by an impersonator skilled enough to pretend to be her own flesh and blood. The fake Palmer eventually talked Schumacher into wiring $2,000 to an address in Massachusetts.
Facebook account hijacking has been around as long as Facebook itself. While it often amounts to little more than childish pranks, the theft of someone’s identity on Facebook can lead to real harm. Imposters have successfully tricked victims into wiring money before — a common scam involves contacting friends and writing an email with dramatic claims of muggings, accompanied by desperate pleas to wire money.
After bragging about getting a grant herself, the fake Palmer urged Schumacher to contact Sgt. Chris Swecker for more details. Swecker said he was with the Federal Government Humanity & Empowerment Program. Chris Swecker is the name of a prominent FBI agent who specialized in electronic crimes during the Internet’s early years. It’s unclear whether the criminal intended to use Swecker’s reputation to aid the scam, but it’s common for computer crooks to use names plucked from online sources to fill in the blanks while composing a scam scenario.
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