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FBI Issues Warning Over Friendly Facebook Scams

The disturbing evolution of the 419 scam from e-mails from Nigerian princes to hijacked Facebook accounts is raising serious alarms within law enforcement circles. We originally reported this new tactic in January, but users still haven't caught on. Just last month a Missouri woman was taken for $4,000 by a scammer posing as a friend on Facebook, and the 'Today Show' recently aired a segment about Sister Erma, a nun, whose Facebook was hijacked and used to dupe her friend Debbie Peterson in to handing over $3,000.

The scam starts with spam messages that contain malcious links. People careless enough to click on these links, like the previously mentioned CooooL Video and FBAction messages, are either led to fake Facebook log in pages that steal your e-mail and password, or are infected with a keylogger that captures all of your usernames and passwords across several different sites. Once the scammers have collected this information they begin sending messages to friends and family of the hijacked account claiming to be in trouble -- in most cases stuck traveling abroad. The messages claim that the person has lost his or her wallet or been mugged and needs a loan (of several thousand dollars) to pay off hotel bills.

The scam has become prevalent enough that the FBI saw fit to issue a warning last week about the threat. In a press release, the Bureau cited reports from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) that the number of hijacked accounts reported has increased dramatically. There have been only 3,200 cases reported since 2006, but we're sure at least as many (if not significantly more) have gone unreported to the IC3. The FBI provided a simple list of safety tips for avoiding becoming the next anecdote on Switched about someone losing thousands of dollars.

And remember our advice -- if you think your account has been hijacked, immediately warn your friends and family. Or if you find yourself on the receiving end of a plea for financial assistance from a Facebook pal, exercise some skepticism and confirm their identity before wiring any money. Then, please report the incident to the IC3. [From: Today Show, FBI, MSNBC],feedConfig,entry&id=489673&pid=489672&uts=1254869669
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