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Woman falls victim to Facebook profile 'cloning' scam

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 22. 2013 10:09PM

A Raymond woman is out $600 after falling prey to one of the latest Internet scams — a cloned Facebook profile of her friend, made by an imposter whose assurance allowed the rip-off to succeed.

During the scam, the victim said she had two chat sessions going. One was with a supposed Facebook lottery agent who wanted a $600 electronic cash transfer before shipping $70,000 in prize money. The other was with her cloned Facebook friend, who assured her the prize was legitimate.

"The lottery did not make sense, but this is somebody I know and see every day of the week, so I thought it was OK," said the woman, who provided her name but asked that it not be disclosed.

Clones of Facebook pages appear to be an emerging problem for users of the popular social networking site. Earlier this month, the technology blog nakedsecurity.sophos reported about cloned pages. And last Monday, Facebook updated its security topics with instructions about how to report a fake account of someone posing as a friend.The nakedsecurity article warned that a cloned Facebook page can send malicious links to friends and launch scams like the one that conned the Raymond victim.

Whether from a Facebook friend or a telephone caller, any effort that involves a large sum of prize money should raise a red flag, according to a New Hampshire consumer official.

"If my brother called and told me I won something, I'd say, 'You're scamming me,'" said David Rienzo, a lawyer who works for the N.H. Attorney General's consumer and anti-trust division.

He said such scams took place through the mail and telephone before the Internet came into prominence. No complaints of Facebook clones have been received by his office, but once it receives a complaint, it will investigate and see what can be done.

Rienzo said most scams originate from outside the country. Arrests depend upon what country is involved.

"The (Canadian) Mounties are great," he said. "If it's coming from Uzbekistan, we're out of luck."

Security sites said Facebook users can take several steps to thwart cloning:

• Don't accept friend requests from people you don't know; the person may end up cloning your page.

• Don't accept friend requests from people who are already your friends; they are likely sent by a clone.

• Adjust your Facebook settings to prevent strangers from getting access to your friend list or profile photos.

• Report an imposter to Facebook.

• Beware of improper English or unusual spellings in chat conversations or emails.

The Raymond woman said she hopes Facebook knows that its network is being used in a scam. She doesn't blame the company; she would just like to let Facebook know what is happening.

According to the chat that the Raymond woman provided to the New Hampshire Union Leader, the agent took information such as her name and address. The agent asked the woman to keep the notification of the prize money secret, citing security reasons.

The $600 payment was needed for case filing fees and shipping, the agent said.The agent typed that the prize "is promoted and sponsored by a conglomerate of some multinational companies as part of their social responsibility to the citizens in the aspect that impacts peoples lifestyle worldwide."

After the woman paid via PayPal, the scammer contacted her and asked for more money. The IRS had stopped the UPS delivery truck and wouldn't let it go forward until taxes were paid on the money.

It's then that the woman realized she had been conned.

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