Global alert: Nigerian scammers posing as Zuckerberg swindle US citizen
FACEBOOK fraudsters are using fake Mark Zuckerberg accounts to scam users into forking over thousands of pounds, reports The Sun. According to the UK Sun newspaper, most of the con messages have been traced to Nigeria and Ghana.
The social media swindle finds con artists contacting victims via Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram, using profiles masquerading as Zuckerberg and Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg, telling them they’ve won $750,000 on the “Facebook Lottery”.
In order to receive the fake prize-money, people are told they must first wire a “delivery fee” to “Facebook”, according to The New York Times.
But after repeat payments that can escalate into the thousands, victims realise there’s no actual Facebook Lottery or prize fund.
That’s what happened to Gary Bernhardt, 67, from Ham Lake, Minnesota in the US, who paid more than $1,500 (£1,092) in the hopes of receiving the promised winnings.
The retired forklift driver and army veteran told the Times he was initially instructed by tricksters to send $200 in iTunes gift cards.
He did as he was told, messaging the redemption codes for the vouchers to the account impersonating Zuckerberg, but the requests for cash didn’t stop there.
And within the span of just three months, Bernhardt had transferred an additional $1,310.
The Times discovered 205 fake accounts in total across the two social networks, which boast 3 billion users combined.
Many of the accounts were traced to Nigeria and Ghana, with around a quarter involved in the scam.
Facebook has since shut them down, claiming “it’s not easy” to track down the fraudsters, several of which had been active on its social network for eight years.
“We want to get better,” a company spokesman told the Times.
The scam comes amid Facebook’s battle against so-called “dark ads”: fake targeted advertising that uses doctored images and videos of high-profile personalities to direct users to malicious websites.
One ad, exposed by entrepreneur Gavin Sheridan, featured an image of Richard Branson with the headline “Richard Hacks Multiple Crypto Exchanges!”
It linked to a fake CNN page – which in turn went to a shady site wrongly promising to grant users free bitcoin.
Over 200 fake Facebook accounts pretending to be Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have been sniffed out.
Senior Tory MP Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, slammed the firm for authorising the ads.
He said: “Fake adverts displayed on social media platforms are a real problem, and one that the social media companies must tackle.
“It is wrong that social media companies, such as Facebook, are profiting from phishing scams and fake adverts that are harmful to their platform’s users.”
Facebook has since taken the promotional messages down and is urging users to report the adverts so it can “take swift action”.
But it begs the question: are Facebook’s algorithms (tasked with removing content that violates the site’s guidelines) losing the fight against fraudsters?