We're all pretty used to phone scams by now. In fact, it seems like they reach us daily, or even multiple times a day. Usually, it starts with a recording or a robo-caller. In that case, most of us hang up within the first ten seconds. Sometimes there is a human on the line, which can be a little more deceiving. But the general rule is that if someone is calling you about something you haven't asked for, you shouldn't be talking to them. However, some scammers have taken to a new platform. As if inundating your phone with fake calls wasn't enough, Dale has just come across a scammer trying to get him with a fake Facebook account and a text message via Facebook Messenger.
Dale is no stranger to scams and scammers, and in this case, it didn't take him long to figure out that something here was fishy. It all started when he logged into his Facebook account and received a strange message from Carolyn. She started out normally. "Hi. How are you doing?" But once Dale responded, she asked some very unusual questions. She wanted to know if Dale had heard about the GGF. When he said he had not, she explained that it was the Government Green Grant Fund, and they had already given her $100,000, and he could apply, too. Dale was surprised by this question because Carolyn wouldn't normally ask him about this stuff. Carolyn is Dale's mom, who shares an account with her husband, and she isn't usually into peddling unknown government grants.
At this point, Dale had a pretty good idea that this was a fake account posing as his mom. His mother would never try to sell Dale a government grant. Plus, the idea that the government is just giving people $100,000 at a time is pretty unbelievable.
This is where most consumers should just stop the conversation. If you want to be helpful, you can even mark the profile as possibly fake, alerting Facebook to the problem. But Dale is a pro, and he wanted to see where this goes to expose the scammers.
Once Dale inquired about how he could apply for this fantastic grant, he was given a number to text. It might seem like no big deal to text a random phone number, but when you do that, you actually give away valuable information.
Why They Want Your Information
Many scams aren't trying to separate you from your money; they just want to mine your personal information. They will either use that information to defraud you or sell that information to other criminals to do the same. The more information scammers can gather about a single account, the more valuable that account becomes. And with each new piece of information, identity thieves can unlock more of your identity and get even more information.
In the case of the Facebook scam, they already have your Facebook account information. They know your name, your birth date, your hometown, your current city, and a bunch of your friends. Using just that much information, they can search public records to add a lot more information. And if they can get your phone number, the amount of information they can compile about you grows exponentially.
One way to get an idea of how this personal data mining works is to enter your phone number into your favorite search engine. You may be surprised at the amount of information that comes up. You may find your name, alternate names you've used, your address and former addresses, the names and phone numbers of your family members, and other identifying information. And if you wanted to pay for a public records search, you could learn even more.
Protecting Your Identity
It is surprisingly easy to gather the information necessary to do things like guessing your security questions and resetting passwords. That's why we recommend using fake answers to your security questions. If you use your mother's actual maiden name, or the street you grew up on, or your best friend's name, those are all pieces of information a scammer could easily figure out. Instead, make up a name or a street just for that account. Using made-up information and varying it from site to site makes it much harder for identity thieves to break into your accounts.