Scheme on Facebook Uses ‘Friends' to Steal Money

For many of us, Facebook is a part of your daily routine. You wake up, you turn on the news, you check your Facebook page.

But one viewer's weird Facebook experience left him speechless.

Bill Glen has good friends — on Facebook and off — but he suspects recent Facebook friends aren't friends at all. It started with a friend request from his brother-in-law, Tim Fitzpatrick.

And it gets better. Glen's name was on the lucky list too.

"He said it was because Mark Zuckerberg was giving away all this money, and we were just at random chosen to be recipients," said Glen.

The person he believed to be his brother-in-law instructed him to send a friend request to someone who directed to a site that said Facebook Lottery. But this was no lottery. That person asked him for his name, address, email and income. The site instructed Glen to fill it out fast and submit it.

Glen was suspicious, and rightfully so. He called his brother-in-law.

"He said I was No. 4. He had four other people who had already called him," Glen recalled.

That's when Glen learned the person he'd been chatting with wasn't his brother-in-law, but someone pretending to be him using his name and picture.

And finally, the crooks revealed the hook. Glen was told he'd have to pay fees to get the money. The money awards were based on a schedule of fees. For example, to get $50,000, the recipient would have to pay $780. To get the promised $90,000, the recipient would have to pay $1,000.

"I said, 'I don't know about this. Why do I have to spend money to get money?'" he asked the alleged distributor of the money. "They said, 'That's just the way it is.'"

It's not the way it is. The Federal Trade Commission said legitimate sweepstakes don't make you pay a fee.

"In the meantime, I got another request that was very similar this morning," Glen said shaking his head.

This friend request came from someone who appeared to be a former colleague. Now Glen was curious. Could this be the same scheme? He told Glen that he too had gotten $90,000. But his money was allegedly a free federal grant for which Glen, too, was eligible. He told Glen to send the message to a man pictured with stacks of bills. This time, the messages said Glen would get the grant if a pricey filing fee.

Glen posted a warning about the scheme on his page, but the experience has left him more wary in the company of so-called friends.

"You feel a little violated. Like someone got in your family," said Glen.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Facebook through Facebook, Twitter and email. The company didn't respond, but Facebook is very familiar with these schemes. In its help section, it warn that crooks often impersonate accounts of people you know.

Glen's brother-in-law said that's what happened to him. Glen believes that's the case with that second friend request as well, but we haven't gotten confirmation. If it happens to you, report it to Facebook.

To stay safe on Facebook, here are Deanna's Dos:

  • Protect your password - Make it difficult.
  • Check your Facebook settings - Make sure they're secure.
  • Update your browser - Newer versions have built-in security protection.
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