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Facebook phishing scam snares company board member

With negative press lately about Facebook's security and privacy policies, this was not a good time for a phishing scam to wind up in the in-boxes of Jim Breyer's Facebook friends.

The e-mail message that wound up in the inboxes of Jim Breyer's Facebook friends. Gmail/Caroline McCarthy

With Facebook's security and privacy standards under fire from all sides, suffice it to say that this is not a good time for one of the company's investors to fall for a Facebook phishing scam.

On Saturday evening, a Facebook event invitation was sent to some of the over 2,300 friends of Jim Breyer, the Accel Partners venture capitalist who sits on Facebook's board of directors, asking "Would you like a Facebook phone number?" As it turned out, this was a scam: Users who entered their passwords in response to the spoof message from Breyer in turn had the whole thing sent to their friends lists, too.

"This was a phishing scam and Jim's account appears to have been compromised," read a statement from Facebook as provided to venture industry news site PEHub. "The issue has since been resolved and we're actively trying to block this activity."

There's no direct connection between a high-profile Facebook investor falling for one of the many phishing scams out there, and the revised privacy policies at Facebook that recently forced members to choose between making some of their profile information public and deleting it altogether in the interest of its new "Open Graph" project. And, to be fair to Breyer, the "Facebook phone number" scam is one of the more believable and innocuous phishing scams floating around on Facebook; to be fair to Facebook, the company seems to have cleaned it up expediently.

But the connection between the two aforementioned issues is that for the first time, many Facebook users may be legitimately questioning just how secure their personal information is and what might be done with it. This does not help.

Accel Partners was one of Facebook's first big-money backers, investing $10 million at an $80 million valuation in the spring of 2005--in the process winning a heated battle among Silicon Valley's elite over who would get a piece of the year-old start-up. Facebook now has over 400 million members around the world and now has an estimated valuation well into the billions.

UPDATE (1:42 p.m. PDT): A little bit of digging revealed that Breyer's account was hit by a scam called FBDigits. Claiming to be an app (called FBDigits) that offers "revolutionary phone software that integrates into Facebook Chat" and lets members make free phone calls and text messages from Facebook, FBDigits appears to have been going around at least since April 20.

CNET has learned that this instance of FBDigits involved a direct hack of Breyer's account, which indicates that a hacker may have been attempting to target his contacts list of influential Silicon Valley types in order to spread the password-stealing scam.