For scam artists, getting their victims to trust them is the first step in every scam, which is why you should always remember my motto, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.” However, it is not unusual to trust your friends, family members or even celebrities, which is why scammers are posing as your friends, family members or celebrities on Facebook by either hacking into someone’s Facebook account and taking over the account or setting up a phony Facebook account in the name of someone you know and trust. Recently I received an email from a Scamicide reader telling me about an attempt to scam her by hacking into a friend’s Facebook account and sending her an instant message telling her about money she was eligible to receive from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If you respond to the link provided in the message you are told that you merely have to pay a small fee to receive your large grant. Of course, this is a scam. Anyone paying the “small fee” loses that money and gets nothing in return.
In regard to protecting your Facebook account, a strong password and security question can help increase your security on Facebook. Too often the personal information that is readily available about people on line is sufficient to answer the security question. You also would be wise to use dual factor authentication which is offered by Facebook. This will protect the security of your Facebook account even if a scammer manages to learn your password. If your Facebook account is hacked, it can result in an increased risk of identity theft and scams to your real friends who may trust a message that appears to come from you that contains a link with dangerous keystroke logging malware that can result in your real friend’s computer being infected and all of the information on it stolen such as Social Security number, account passwords and credit card numbers that can result in identity theft. In other instances, your friends may fall for a scam such as the phony promise of money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Make sure you use a unique and complex password for all of your accounts so that if there is a data breach in which your password is compromised, it would not result in all of your accounts being vulnerable. Additionally, as I indicated above, use dual factor authentication for your Facebook account for much added security.
Be careful what personal information you put on Facebook. Always consider how that information can be used against you to make you a victim of identity theft. When setting up a security question, pick an answer that is nonsensical to protect it from hackers, such as “Where did I go to High School?” with an answer of “blue.” Finally and most importantly, never, and I mean never, click on links in messages that you receive unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate. Merely because a message appears to be from a friend does not mean that the friend actually sent it. His or her account may have been hacked or they may even be passing on tainted material without knowing it. Never click on a link until you are absolutely sure that it is legitimate. Call your friend to confirm that the message was from them and confirm from where they got the link they are sending to make sure that it is legitimate. It may seem paranoid, but even paranoids have enemies. Clicking on links sent by scammers or identity thieves can download a wide array of malware including ransomware and keystroke logging malware that can lead to your becoming a victim of identity theft.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a well-known, legitimate charity founded by Microsoft creator Bill Gates and his wife. It does not give random grants to people, however since 2015 a scam based on that premise has been victimizing people. Sometimes potential victims of this scam are targeted through emails. Other times, such as in the case of the Scamicide reader it was through a Facebook message. The real Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a page on their website where they warn you about the various scams linked to their foundation. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/media-center/press-releases/2012/11/reporting-email-scams It should be noted that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation does not give grants to individuals, does not give grants that have not been applied for and do not charge any fees.
For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.” Scamicide was recently cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.
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