Facebook accounts hacked
By: Channel NewsAsia – Saturday, December 12
SINGAPORE: Right before her eyes, Julie Chiang watched the computer screen as someone used her Facebook account — pretending to be her, asking her friend for money and claiming she had been mugged in London.
“It was surreal to watch the conversation happen right in front of me,” said Ms Chiang, who had been woken up in Singapore by her friend’s phone call on Friday morning.
“He told me he was on Facebook now, talking to ’me’, and I was saying I needed money to go home.”
The hacker even used Ms Chiang’s husband’s name, which could be found on her Facebook profile, in the conversation.
Even as the unfolding scam began to dawn on her, a second friend living in New Zealand messaged her to say she was having the same conversation.
Reports of such incidents — known as a 419 scam — though few, are on the rise among Facebook users.
Fraudulent individuals collect log—in information through phishing sites and access Facebook accounts to send inbox or chat messages or to update the person’s profile. And they claim to be stranded in a foreign country and ask friends to send money, usually through a money transfer service.
“While the total number of people who have been impacted is small, we take any threat to security seriously and are redoubling our efforts to combat the scam,” said Facebook in a blog post in September.
The scam had previously been perpetrated through emails.
But more cyber criminals are leveraging on social engineering as a means of deceiving users, said systems engineering manager Ronnie Ng from Symantec Singapore.
“Social engineering takes advantage of our natural tendency to trust one another, rather than relying solely on technological means to steal information,” he said.
Indeed, Ms Leong Su—Lin, who was chatting with “Julie” yesterday morning, said the scam seemed believable because it was a “live” conversation.
“Someone was actually responding to the questions I was asking; it wasn’t an automated thing, which is why I went along with it,” Ms Leong, 32, told MediaCorp from New Zealand.
“They were also hitting on a ’soft spot’ by saying she was hurt. I was very concerned, so although she sounded a bit strange, I thought maybe it’s because she was still traumatised.”
But something felt amiss. “I thought it was strange she was on Facebook and not at the police station or at an embassy,” she said.
Mr Ng said people need to be more aware of where they post personal information and who they allow on their social networks. In addition, online users should be careful of clicking on links from unknown senders and use up—to—date security software, he advised.
“They should also be on their guard if they receive suspicious messages from friends, such as requests for money,” he said. “Users should always double—check with their friend. When in doubt, do a search on the Internet to see if it’s a known scam.”
Thankfully for Ms Chiang’s friends, they did just that, and she has since reported the incident to Facebook. “I’ve not heard of this happening, so it’ll be good for more people to know about it,” she said.
The online conversation
(5:17:46 PM) Julie Chiang: Terence and I are stuck in London at the moment
(5:17:55 PM) Derrick Lim: are u there for a holiday?
(5:18:16 PM) Julie Chiang: Vacation
(5:18:27 PM) Julie Chiang: Got mugged at gun point last night …
(5:19:00 PM) Julie Chiang: All cash,credit card and cell were stolen off me
(5:19:11 PM) Julie Chiang: I also got injured
(5:19:19 PM) Derrick Lim: oh no ….
(5:19:45 PM) Derrick Lim: what injury?
(5:20:01 PM) Julie Chiang: Little bruises all over my neck
(5:21:45 PM) Julie Chiang: I need your help to get back home?
(5:21:57 PM) Derrick Lim: my help? ….
(5:22:38 PM) Julie Chiang: Our flight leaves in less than 3hrs from now and we’re having problem settling hotel bills
(5:23:02 PM) Julie Chiang: I need you to loan me few bucks to settle the bills and get a cab to he Airport
(5:23:59 PM) Derrick Lim: ok
(5:24:42 PM) Julie Chiang: You can have it wired to my name and Location through western union ….
(5:27:27 PM) Derrick Lim: can u email me the details?
(5:27:45 PM) Julie Chiang: sure
(5:27:52 PM) Julie Chiang: Name Julie Chiang
(5:28:19 PM) Julie Chiang: Location — London, United Kingdom
(5:28:28 PM) Julie Chiang: You can try it online right now
(5:30:18 PM) Julie Chiang: Visit www.westernunion.com
(5:30:58 PM) Derrick Lim: ok
(5:31:18 PM) Julie Chiang: You will have to do it with your credit card
(5:31:22 PM) Derrick Lim: yes