Police Chief warns citizens of new Facebook scam

Killdeer Police Chief Eric Braathen warns of a new scammer attack that tried to hack into his facebook account.

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It goes like this… you get contacted by someone posing as an acquaintance that you have not heard from in quite a while and they ask to be friends. You accept the friend request and you get an immediate message from that new “friend” telling you all about how great he/she is doing and that she has just been awarded a federal “cost of living grant” with a contact name and number from the federal government.

As part of my campaign for States Attorney this year, I set up my first facebook page and, it has been greatly disturbing for me as to how much personal information that people post. As a close protection operator in a previous life, I know that information grants knowledge and knowledge is power over that person. Current photos, locations, itineraries, personal contact information all flows on facebook with no check or balance as to who really has access to it. Because if what the kids tell me, “Oh, daddy, it’s perfectly safe” then how did Chief Braathen get contacted. Not only friends but, also, pedophiles, rapists, perverts, stalkers and thieves have direct access to you (and your family’s) personal, private information too! And, do I need to even get into the pooh flinging about me, my friends, their loved ones (including their kids) and our political supporters all courtesy of the Battle of the Facebook these past 4 months. All courtesy of your computer keyboard.

The current scam about “grants” actually first popped up last year according to facebook. It is just a variation on the theme of stealing your identity (see, www.facebook.com/scamdb). The message that Chief Braathen got is not unique. Your new “friend” simply went to a facebook page with public information including your name as their “friend” and warm, fuzzy personal photos which you have already “liked”. They then set up their own bogus facebook page including those photos, etc. So, after you “friend” your new friend when they contact you the first time, the message you get back will start off with a few lines about the weather, the new job, the kids and the warm fuzzy stuff. Then, something like this: “OK, have you heard about the good news yet? No? I was just wondering if you have heard about the 2014 empowerment program in conjunction with facebook and the federal government to help…” The thief will then claim that they got their “grant” and, saw your name on the list of eligible recipients too. That’s why they found you on facebook. They then provide contact information for an “agent of the federal government” or a “representative of facebook” to contact to sign up. A facebook contact link is then touted as the best way to make contact the agent with “a private message”.

In response to your private message request, you will get a friendly reply from this “agent” complete with an electronic form to fill out to receive your grant. The form will request your name, address, city, state, zip code, date of birth, marital status, e-mail address, telephone number, occupation, gender, and bank account information; as well as, your request to get more information about your eligibility. You know, everything a thief needs to hack into your e-mail, computer, passwords, bank accounts, credit cards, etc. The watchword here is simple. If you get a computer (or any electronic) message, remember, you don’t really know from whom you got it. You only know that they “say” they are who they claim to be. And, in this life, if someone promises to give you something for nothing…nothing in life is free. Particularly, in this economy. So, it is a scam until conclusively proven otherwise.

If you have any doubts about a new “friend”, remember, these thieves are operating on your naive trust. So, ask them to provide personal information about your old relationship. Since they have never known you, they are not going to be able to provide it. Also, Google the information they provided by the new “friend” about this federal/private giveaway program. I did this about Chief Braathen’s information and, since the odds are you aren’t the first potential victim, you’ll find out quick enough about the scam. Call this old “friend” if you still have their number. And, frankly, never transmit your personal identity information over facebook or the Internet. That’s why, if a website will not use PayPal, I don’t do business with them. And, I am also a personal advocate of Lifelock. Last year when I bought my new car, Lifelock actually called me at the dealership in Bismarck, while the manager was running my credit information to verify who I was, to warn me that the process was taking place in real time. Fifteen bucks a month is cheap to protect my personal information in comparison to the hours it’s going to take to fix an identity theft.

I also receive weekly emails from my old friends at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri warning of these attacks from areas of the world where there are no restrictions or lax government regulation–China, Nigeria, and Indonesia. One particularly repulsive scam was stealing photos of American soldiers to use as part of this nonsense. In North Dakota, as we have previously reported in the Dunn County Law Enforcement Newsletter (9-13-2014, 12th edition), identity theft is a crime and, may even be a class C felony. Unfortunately, this type of theft is usually from outside Dunn County, so, all our office can advise you to do is report the matter to facebook or whoever the forum sponsor is where you were contacted. Then, if you already have been a victim of identity theft, make a police report to the appropriate agency, contact your credit card companies and your bank(s). And, finally, it’s always smart to also contact the three major credit-reporting bureaus to try and protect your credit rating — Equifax (1-888-766-0008), Experian (1-888-397-3742) and TransUnion (1-800-916-8800).


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