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Security & privacy

Watch out for clever Facebook Messenger scams

It’s bad enough when scammers ask for a favor or pose as the love of your life, only to steal your money and break your heart. You need to be careful.

Yet, scammers have hit a new low that you probably never heard of. It’s a terrifying scam that’s specifically targeting women.

This isn’t the type of scam where a distant man is asking you for money (so he can fly home to you!). It’s also not a scam targeting everyone on Facebook with a fake contest, where you input your personal information that they steal.

This spear-phishing scam is taking place on Facebook Messenger and targets individuals like you. You might be sitting at work when you get a message from an old friend. That’s exactly what recently happened to a woman in her 20s. She didn’t know her reputation would nearly be ruined, and her online IDs stolen and used to exploit her.

Here’s how it works. A scammer uses Messenger to pose as one of your friends.

They might say, “How are you doing, babe?” Note: If your gut tells you something’s not right, it probably isn’t.

In this case, the so-called friend asked this woman if she’d vote for her in a modeling competition. She just needed her email address. Second message: That email address caused a huge problem with the voting. The scammer said her chances of winning the modeling competition were ruined. However, she said, she could fix it with the scammed woman’s email login credentials.

She gave the credentials to the person she thought was her friend. Minutes later, this woman was the victim of a blackmail scheme.

The scammer, a man, told her she was “immoral.” He had her photos and saw that she had nude images of herself. He saw pictures of her smoking and he could tell from her conversations that she was sexually active.

In most phishing scams, he may have asked her for money. In this Facebook Messenger spear-phishing scam, he asked her to perform sex acts on camera for him.

When she refused, he posted an explicit picture of her on Facebook. She was exposed to her family, co-workers and hundreds of friends.

Equally bad, this scammer used her email credentials to break into her other online accounts, including her Apple ID and her Hotmail email account.

It took her weeks to get most of her online accounts up and running again. Some of her accounts are still not accessible.

It’s easy to protect yourself against this Messenger spear-phishing scam, but you need to be alert at all times.

First, simply refuse to give anyone your online credentials. It’s easy to get lulled into a sense of safety, especially when you’re texting or messaging someone you think is your friend. Make it your mission to never share your online credentials with anyone.

Second, and most important, set up two-step verification on Facebook and other accounts. This adds a level of protection on top of your password to keep people out of your accounts.

Often, two-step verification is a code sent to your cellphone. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, your bank, and other companies will send you a unique code to get into your account.

Here’s how to set up two-step verification on Facebook: Click on the down arrow on the far-right side of your Facebook home page >> Settings >> Security >> Login Approvals >> enable Facebook’s Two-Factor Authentication.

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