Fayette County

Lexington woman loses $500 in scam that started with a Facebook message

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A Lexington woman lost $500 in a scam that started with a message on Facebook Messenger.

Phyllis White, 62, said she received a message from what appeared to be one of her Facebook friends, in which the person claimed to have received money from “the International Finance Corporation,” or “IFC.” The message said White, too, could get some “free government money” if she sent a fee to the company administering the program.

“I actually thought it was my family friend,” White said. “They worded it like ... she was able to start her business” with the money. “They told me to text them.”

Her friend’s Facebook account had been hacked or cloned.

White said she sent a text to the number given, and the scammer told her that if she sent $500, she would get $20,000 in return, and if she sent $750, she’d get $35,000.

On Friday, she bought a $500 money order, took it to a bank and sent the money to the account number and routing number that had been provided.

White said the red flags that hadn’t gone up in her mind before went up when she got home from the bank and saw another message from the scammer.

“She forgot to tell me that I had to give her another $1,000,” White said.

When White declined, she said, “they kept texting me and worrying me.”

Finally, she said, she received a “threatening message” from a “so-called lawyer.” They said it was “mandatory and I could not abandon my obligation” to send more money.

White contacted the Better Business Bureau of Central and Eastern Kentucky.

“This is a common scam exploiting the ties that Facebook users have with other Facebook friends,” BBB president Jack Frank said in a news release. “The con artist hacks or replicates a user’s account, and sends messages to everyone on that person’s Facebook friend list. This increases the chances that someone could fall for a scam, because the message came from someone they believed was a person they know.”

The Better Business Bureau suggests that Facebook users select the privacy setting “only me” for their friends list rather than “public.”

The BBB also recommends that users make sure they aren’t already friends with someone who sends a new friend request. A second request from someone who already is your friend could be a sign that the person’s account has been hacked.

And as always, view any message regarding sending money with a skeptical eye, even if it appears to be from a trusted friend.