MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (WATE) - If you get a Facebook friend request from someone you're already friends with, chances are it's a scammer.
WATE 6 On Your Side has reported on the scam many times, but a Middlesboro, Kentucky, woman who said she'd never heard of it ended up losing a lot of money, believing she had won a lottery.
Facebook can be a great place to stay in touch with family and connect with old and new friends. If you don't have your friends list protected, scammers trolling for potential victims can steal your friends page. If you're not savvy, you can end up losing money.
From her small apartment in Middlesboro, Gwen Henderson depends on her laptop. From it she watches TV and listens to gospel music.
Henderson, a great grandmother, says she trusts most people, especially her friends. In January, on Facebook, Henderson's friend Bobby Breen, or she thought it was him, sent her a note about something big happening.
"There was a good thing going and he wanted me to get into it," said Henderson.
Henderson said Bobby - it was actually a scammer - gave her a number to text and said she had won money. Linda Hall was her contact.
"She said to start your winning money, to send me $350," said Henderson.
Henderson believed it and sent the $350. The text message said the amount of money she had won, $150,000, was on it's way.
"United Parcel Service, UPS, was going to deliver it. She said it would be delivered in a box and the drivers are getting ready to head out. And she said you need to send me $500 dollars. She said that is to pay the deliveryman," said Henderson.
She sent the money. After transferring $350, Henderson then wired $500 off to Linda Hall.
"She said you are going to be a very happy lady today," said Henderson.
To keep the scam going, Henderson was sent a bogus certificate, certifying her winnings of $150,000. Before the day was over however, a snag developed. She was told the tax boys had stopped the UPS truck.
"She said when the IRS discovered that it was your win money, she said they confiscated it," said Henderson.
Now the scammer needed a thousand dollars, and she wired it. She'd now lost $1,850.
"My life savings," she said.
"They're usually after either your money or personal information so they can use that to get money," said Better Business Bureau President Tony Binkley.
Binkley said even he's received a post from a scammer posing as a friend.
"When you think a friend has already benefited from this, it's easy for you to get sucked into it," said Binkley.
To be safe on Facebook, tighten you security settings so only friends can view your profile. Another tip is at the top of your friends activity log where is asks who can see you friend list, select "friends," instead of "'public."
"If it had been anybody else but Bobby that had sent the chat on Facebook, I wouldn't have done it," said Henderson. "I really and truly thought I had more sense. Come to find out, I'm as dumb as a coal bucket."
Scammers pretending to be your friend on Facebook is one of the social media site's top hoaxes. Other similar cons on Facebook include fake giveaways and the Christmas gift exchange scam. Cyber experts say those not familiar with the workings of Facebook could be prime targets.
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