To my friends on Facebook:
If you get a message from me asking for money because I've been robbed while on vacation somewhere, please don't send cash.
First off, I can't afford any big vacations for the foreseeable future. Secondly, if I encountered some trouble I definitely wouldn't blast a plea for help out to my hundreds of Facebook friends.
A relatively new Facebook scam has been surfacing in which a user's account is hacked and then used to send messages of alarm to get the user's friends to send money.
Hacking into Web accounts and stealing passwords aren't new. But combining those techniques with the trusted network of friends and acquaintances and broad distribution that the most popular online social network provides is causing some concern.
Colorado Facebook user Donna Lu Gamberg told CBS station KCNC-TV that after refusing to get on Facebook she eventually joined only to have her account stolen by someone who tried to get money out of her friends. "It was a creepy feeling, and that's the first time that kind of incident happened to me," Gamberg said.
Fortunately, Gamberg figured it out and notified Facebook before any friends got duped out of money. But others have not been so lucky.
One Facebook user published a chat he had recently with a supposed Facebook friend in trouble, but which turned out to be an impostor trying to get money.
A Facebook representative told the Inside Facebook blog: "This is a very low volume attack, affecting only a small number of users, but the potential impact to an individual user is high so we're taking it very seriously. Our team has already detected various trends in the accounts of users who have been compromised. We're using this data to quickly surface compromised accounts, ideally before the spammers have gotten very far."
The company advises users to confirm via telephone or e-mail that a friend is truly in trouble before sending money, to use antivirus software, and not to publish information like addresses or telephone numbers.