Fraudulent Facebook IMF Scam Hitting the Area
The International Monetary Fund Scam is all over Facebook! We have received many calls from consumers who were approached by their “Facebook friends” with the news that they had been approved for a $50,000 “grant” from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Your friend writes a message like “How are you doing?” When you respond “Fine, how are you?” the friend says “I’m doing good and just waiting for my money.” You ask what money and your friend says “I’m getting this IMF grant! Didn’t you hear about it?” Your friend gives you the link, you apply and you get back a certificate that reads: “This is to certify that (you) have been awarded the sum of $50,000 USD and has been cleared of due process and other related issues.” (The certificate is riddled with spelling errors.) You are then contacted by an “executive” with the IMF who explains that, to get your grant, you must pay the “transportation fee” of $600 or whatever. You send the money by Western Union or MoneyGram and often they come back with “complications” that require more money. But if you ask questions, they just disappear…with your cash.
Of course it’s ridiculous! The IMF doesn’t give grants to people. But the scam is surprisingly effective for three reasons.
First, it comes over Facebook from one of your friends! Young people are immediately trusting of messages networked from friends. The scammers, of course, just hijack the address books of consumers on Facebook and use this to send out messages and cheat others.
The second reason this works is that the scammers use the names of actual IRS officials or other government officials to make their hoax seem real. The certificate looks real and has the IMF logo and official letterhead. And the third reason it works is that we all need money!
We urge consumers to be alert the next time a “friend” sends them a strange message. Their Facebook (or Twitter, Instagram or whatever) account may have been hacked. Call your friend and ask if they really sent you the message. They probably have no idea this is happening!
NEXT: Free Movies may equal Malware! Have you received an email offer for a web site or app that offers free downloads or streams of well-known movies, popular TV shows, big-league sports, or absorbing games? The Federal Trade Commission warns that sites offering free content often hide malware that can bombard you with ads, take over your computer, or steal your personal information.
FTC staffers recently downloaded movies from five sites that offered them for free. In all five cases, they ended up with malware on their computers. Generally, it served up a slew of unwanted ads.
Oh. And if that’s not enough to make you pause, often the free movies or videos are pirated…which means downloading them is illegal. The service may ask for a credit card to process your registration. If you don’t know them, giving them personal information may not be a good idea. Beware!
NEXT: Scams using the IRS name are everywhere! You already know about the robo-calls threatening to arrest you for non-payment of back taxes. But consumers also receive emails that “The IRS has made an error! You are owed an additional refund of $453. Click here to receive details on how to claim your refund.” The crooks have set up a look-alike web site and obtain personal information they can use to steal identities.
Or tax professionals who use IRS e-services get an email notifying them to “update their accounts” and directing them to a fake website.
Our recent concern is the announcement that the IRS will be using collection agencies to try and collect past-due taxes. These legitimate services will be calling consumers, and we have just spent three years warning consumers that the IRS doesn’t phone, it only sends requests by mail. This is sure to cause confusion with taxpayers assuming that valid calls for payment are scams. Sigh.
We explain two ways to detect a fraud. First, legitimate collection calls will come only after mail appeals have already been received, not just out of the blue. Second, legitimate payment can be made only to the U.S. Treasury, not the caller himself.
Dick Eppstein, BBB