Scammers Use Hijacked Accounts To Con Facebook Users Out Of Thousands

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Scammers don’t just work the phones, they work the internet as well. One scam victim lost money after being contacted by a fake friend on Facebook.

Shellie Drummond told CBS2’s Anna Werner the problem began when she found the profile for an old friend on Facebook.

“I was on messenger and my friend’s name came up,” she said.

Soon her friend Boyd was telling her about a so-called government grant she’d gotten through an agent on Facebook. Sure enough the agent then told Drummond she could get financial assistance from the government. All she had to do was provide some personal information, and submit $1,500 in fees to get up to $100,000 in grant money.

“The person that I was corresponding with that I thought was my friend, had vouched for this foundation and I believed her,” she said.

Drummond wired $1,500 to Florida, and waited for a delivery driver to deliver $100,000 in cash.

She tracked down her friend Boyd by phone.

“I said, ‘Shellie it wasn’t me, you got scammed,” she said.

So are the scammers still active?

To find out CBS News setup its own fake account on Facebook, and contacted Boyd’s imposter. Sure enough she claimed she got a $50,000 grant and said we could get one too, it wasn’t a loan, and that we wouldn’t have to pay it back.

It wasn’t just the fake Deborah Boyd account, CBS News found what appeared to be a network of fake Facebook profiles offering grants from $50,000 to $1-million all while assuring us it wasn’t a scam.

Photos of the agents using a Google image search proved they were real, but the people in them weren’t offering grants — one was a real estate agent from Vermont, the other a professor at MIT.

Computer expert Gary Miliefsky set up a way to track the scammer’s location. He built a page that looks like a money transfer company’s website, but really finds a computer’s unique identifier and location.

“When they click the link thinking they’re going to a popular money transfer site, they are allowing us to track them,” he said.

The scammers clicked on it, and were found to be in Lagos, Nigeria.

Facebook told CBS News it has, “a dedicated team” helping to detect and block these kinds of scams, and has “developed several techniques” to stop the abuse.

Boyd told CBS News Facebook still hasn’t solved her problem, and the scammers still have a fake profile up.

CBS News provided Facebook with URLs for the scam accounts, which appeared to have been blocked just hours later.

Boyd said she has never been able to get back into her old profile, which has a lot of family photos and memories that she would like to have back.

One woman was shocked to hear that her photograph was used in the scam, she had no idea her picture was being used.

Scams cost Americans roughly $50-billion every year.

More From CBS New York

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
Get Our Morning Briefs
Bloomberg WCBS Tri-State Business Index

Watch & Listen LIVE