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Security & privacy

‘Is this you?’ Don’t fall for this Facebook private message scam

Scammers and online fraudsters will stop at nothing to get their hands on your personal information. And if they can target your online friends in the process, they stand to sneak away with tons of digital loot.

One of the favorite venues for scammers is Facebook. From viral posts promising free steaks to your share of winning lottery tickets, Facebook is littered with schemes to rip you off. A recent example included fraudulent copyright violation threats. Tap or click here to see how to handle these fake warnings.

A new scheme is making the rounds now that seem to be coming from your friends. But if you get this message, run away. It’s a scam!

How the scam works

An old scam has been making the rounds online for several months, but it has now infiltrated Facebook Messenger. Unsuspecting victims will receive a message from what appears to be a friend, with the subject “Is it you in the video?”

Naturally, it will pique your curiosity, especially if it comes from a friend. But it is all part of a massive scam and you should not attempt to watch the video inside the message. Here is why:

The message that pops up will display a black preview image of what appears to be an attached video, with the simple text of “Is it you in the video?”

Facebook message with link to fake video.
The message will contain a link and a fake video. (image: Sophos)

When you click on it, you will not be able to view the video. Instead, the scammers use a URL shortening service that will redirect your browser to a fake Facebook login screen.

RELATED: Protect yourself from online scams with this cloud backup service

If that doesn’t raise red flags, you might find yourself negligently curious and proceed to “log in” to the fake page. By typing in your username and password, you are not logging in to anything but merely supplying the fraudsters with your legitimate Facebook credentials.

Once they have them, they will be able to log into your Facebook profile and send spam to all your friends with the same message. It is a perpetual cycle and only takes one person’s lapse in judgment to open the flood gates.

Once they have your login details, it is often complicated (if not impossible) to recover your profile. Through scams like this, you will often see users stating that their Facebook profile was hacked.

What the scammers are after

In many instances, a user’s profile will be taken over through the scam mentioned above. But instead of sending the same message to friends, the criminals will message contacts with malicious links and suspicious online offers.

Through these links, they hope to scam people out of their credit card details or collect fees from online clicks.

What you can do to stay safe

The first rule of cybersecurity is to never click on a link or attachment that even vaguely looks suspicious. Even if it is from a trusted friend, it should always be treated with caution.

RELATED: Security tip: How to spot fake social media profiles

Password management is equally important, and you should change all your details at least once a month. And never use the same login credentials for multiple websites.

Some apps and websites allow you to set up Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). It requires you to verify through a second medium that it is indeed you who’s logging in. While it is not foolproof, it will add an extra layer of security.

Also, review your security settings on social media websites and only allow trusted or verified people to contact you. Tap or click here to find out how to set up 2FA for Facebook along with more security precautions.

If you suspect that your account has been compromised, change your password ASAP. The longer you wait, the more time criminals will have to steal your data. If you receive a suspicious message from a friend, contact them through a different message and alert them to the breach.

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