The Better Business Bureau issued a warning to Facebook users saying hackers and scam artists can pose as a legitimate friend and steal personal information.
The social networking site is popular with young people, especially high school and college students, to help keep in contact with friends. The site allows a users to create a profile that often includes personal information like birthdates, phone numbers and addresses.
Consumer advocates have warned Facebook, which boasts more than 150 million active users, is a virtual gold mine for identity thieves who steal personal information and scam people into sending money.
In response to the threat, Facebook and other social network sites like MySpace, installed privacy settings allowing the user to set their profile to private except for friends. But, the BBB says scammers have found ways around these restrictions.
The BBB says scammers will send messages to users with the message "You look awesome in this video," or "You look funny in this video." The message contains a link to an outside Web site.
Clicking on the link will download a virus onto the victim's computer that will monitor a user's personal information and can potentially steal information.
Other scams include the virtual wall post where the user receives a message from a friend saying, "hey do u realize your facebook picture is all over [link to Web site]." Clicking on the link will download a virus that steals personal information and will pass on the message to other friends of the victim.
A third scam called "friend in distress." Facebook users may receive a message in their inbox from a friend saying that they are in a dire situation -- such as stranded in a foreign country -- and need money wired to them. The recipient of the message doesnt realize that their friends account has been hacked and that the message was actually sent by scammers. If the Facebook user does wire money to the scammers, they have no way of recovering the money after they learn that their friend is actually safe and sound.
The BBB suggests following this rules for staying safe on social networking sites:
Be extremely wary of messages from friends or strangers that direct the user to another Web site via a hyperlink.
Before wiring money to a friend in a jam, users should attempt to contact their friend outside of the social networking site, such as over the phone or via e-mail to confirm the situation. If thats not possible, BBB recommends asking them a question to which only they would know the answer.
Users should always make sure their computers operating systems antivirus and firewall software are up to date.
Social networking sites are about sharing information, but BBB recommends that users take steps to keep important information private. While some social networking Web sites do allow for the user to share phone numbers and addresses, its best to keep such information private.
Be selective when choosing friends. While a user might not want to be rude, BBB recommends that its best to decline a request for friendship if the user doesnt actually know the person.
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