LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WKBW) — When Barbara Tester recently opened Facebook messages from her brother and ex-brother-in-law she couldn't believe the opportunity in front of her eyes. They each told her they were able to claim at least $50,000 from a grant fund, and she wanted in. It seemed too good to be true...and that's because it was.
Tester said even though the messages came from her brother and ex-brother-in-law's Facebook accounts, and it wasn't really them.
The messages from both of Tester's family members' accounts referred her to a Facebook user named "Williams Mark 03" to claim her share. In her case she was led to believe she was getting $140,000.
"I'm not that smart with the computer said I don't know" said Tester, admitting she acted quick.
Tester continued the process and messaged Williams Mark 03. The back-and-forth conversation led Williams Mark 03 to tell Tester that she was approved for a "grant with the Department of State Assistance."
"He said I'll have the money in 12 hours," explained Tester. Williams Mark 03 told her to send a picture of her driver's license to validate her identity. Williams Mark 03 even sent images of wads of cash and mail rooms as "evidence" this was legitimate, and she would get paid. He even told Tester this is not a scam.
"He said I have to go to CVS and Walmart and buy four $100 gift cards," said Tester. "Then it clicked to me, hello it's a scam, but I already gave him my driver's license."
Not only that, Tester also provided her address, telephone number, occupation, even her annual income to Williams Mark 03 to "apply" for the grant. That was before she sent a picture of her license.
Tester wrote back it's a scam, and didn't proceed any further with requests of gift cards. "I never really go on Facebook, and never click on any of that stuff," said Tester.
A friend later messaged Tester that a picture of her license was being shared all over the internet. Now she's worried it will lead to stolen identity.
University at Buffalo Computer Science & Engineering Assistant Professor Kenny Joseph studies the vulnerability of different age groups on social media. He said it's pretty easy for people to act as someone you may be friends with on social media to then hack you. He said if your friends are targeted it could lead all the way to you being targeted. Tester's situation is an example of that.
"One thing that makes it easier is if you have passwords you use across multiple websites, or if you use passwords that are not strong," explained Joseph.
Joseph said think to think about social media money giveaways in real life. If Facebook didn't exist, how likely do you think it is that someone comes and rings your doorbell and offers you $140,000," said Joseph.
Joseph offers three key points of advice for those not as familiar with computers or social media.
- STRONG PASSWORDS - Using passwords hackers won't be able to guess from your personal information, will only make accessing your account harder. Joseph recommends passwords managers such as Lastpass.com
- IT'S SAFE TO IGNORE - Ignoring a situation online is the safest decision. If you have anyone you know who is more experienced on social media, ask them to validate the message. Joseph said if an organization needs you for financial reasons they will know how to contact you, and it probably won't be on Facebook.
- BE SKEPTICAL - Don't trust sources you don't know. Joseph said if you get a message that seems fishy, even from the account of a close family member or friend, call them up to ask if that's really them.
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