'Tis the season for giving, but it's also the season for scams.
One such scheme could involve Facebook and someone posing as a good friend.
Yvonne Lehman recently received a message from a relative, who was also a Facebook friend, saying she had just won a "Facebook Freedom Award," and that she thought Lehman was a winner, too.
"She had won this contest, and she had seen my name on it, too. So then she sent me the link to this person who handled it," Lehman said.
The agent, whom she reached by Facebook Messenger, claimed Lehman had actually won one of their top prizes, $50,000. However, the agent told her she needed to send them money first.
"First, they said I needed to pay $500 to secure the package," Lehman said.
She purchased $500 in Apple gift cards and gave the numbers to the agent. But instead of her award, she got another request.
"He told me that now I would have to pay $5,000 for the taxes on the $50,000," she said.
Already in for $500, Lehman borrowed from family and paid the additional $5,000 in gift cards, only to be told she now had to pay customs and border fees.
That's when Lehman began to suspect the whole thing might be a scam. She contacted her relative directly to learn what was going on. She was stunned to find out the woman knew nothing about it.
It turned out her relative's Facebook page had been hacked.
Warning signs of a Facebook scam
The FBI has issued an alert warning that thousands of Americans are falling victim to cybercrimes every year.
The FBI provided the following tips on how to handle unusual Facebook messages or emails:
- Take your time. You don't have to respond immediately, click on links or open attachments
- Look over the message for spelling/grammatical errors, which are a common red flag of foreign scams
- If you are conversing by email, use your cursor and hover over the sender's email address, and view the link to see any hidden email address and website URL
- Be leery of an email or Facebook message that has an unusual sense of urgency
- If the message appears to come from a friend, call or contact that friend some other way to make sure it is really them.
Lehman has filed complaints with police and her state attorney general but worries she may never see her money again.
"It really just stuck in my gut that it wasn't real," she said.
There is no such Facebook rewards program randomly awarding thousands of dollars. And if a friend tells you about one, someone may have taken over your friend's page, so don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
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