Beware of fake friends

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Being targeted for scams through email or even an odd online message is something most of us have experienced, but what if the message comes from a family member or friend? Even if it looks a little odd, is it still believable?

Unfortunately, this type of impersonation scam is happening more frequently and recently targeted a North Idaho family.

This story began when the family matriarch received a Facebook message from her granddaughter explaining that she had received a $50,000 trust from “The Trust Community Foundation.” The granddaughter added that she had to pay $1,500 to cover tax and clearance fees, and she urged the grandmother to get in on the act. The grandmother was, wisely, concerned it was a scam and began asking questions that the granddaughter answered via Messenger, saying she couldn’t communicate by phone. Worrying that her loved one was involved in a horrible scam, she contacted the Better Business Bureau and was advised it most likely was a fraud.

When the woman finally did get in touch with her granddaughter, she was told her Facebook account had been hacked and that none of the communication was hers. Unfortunately, this is a type of scam that happens more frequently than most would think.

In 2018, imposter scams were the most common complaint consumers reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Fortunately, no one in this story fell for the elaborate scheme and no one lost any money, but that isn’t always the case. Here are some tips to help you avoid getting caught up in this type of situation.

Be wary of online messages. A person may be trustworthy in real life, but online accounts can be hacked, and sometimes friends share things without checking them out first. Take a closer look before sharing, applying, or donating.

Do some research. Ask for the charity’s name and look it up. If you can’t find a website, it’s most likely a fake. If you can find a website, look for contact information (no contact info is a red flag).

Press for details. Ask questions to confirm you are actually talking to someone you know. Then, find out who runs the grant, where it’s from, how it works, and why you qualify. If your “friend” can’t give you straight answers, beware.

Report suspicious activity to Facebook. You can report scammers to Facebook to help protect your real friends and family from a scam. You can reduce the risk of having your profile impersonated by tightening up your privacy settings and hiding your Friends list. Do a “Privacy Checkup” by clicking on the question mark at the top of your Facebook home page.

If you have any questions or information about scams you have seen, please let us know and we’ll be happy to help!

• • •

Jason can be reached at jason.kama@thebbb.org or 208-493-2431. For more information on businesses and complaints, find the contact information for your closest office at https://www.bbb.org/local-bbb/bbb-northwest-pacific.

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