The Anatomy of an Online Confidence Scam

    There is an old saying “A friend in need, is a friend indeed”… but how do you know that “friend” is really your friend when you’re talking to him online?  My cousin Chris recently had to ask himself this very question when a cry for help through his Facebook chat window started to smell a little fishy.  With his permission, here’s the text from the conversation (keep in mind, “SCAMMER” is a real life friend… not some random person on the internet that stumbled on your AOL username):

03:35:14 SCAMMER: Hey
03:35:26 Chris: sup
03:35:40 SCAMMER: How are you today
03:36:02 Chris: well my friend just died but other than that i’m okay
03:36:20 SCAMMER: Sorry about that
03:36:25 Chris: cancer
03:36:27 SCAMMER: Am in a deep sh** right now
03:36:33 Chris: hows that?
03:36:53 SCAMMER: I was mugged at gun point in london lastnight
03:37:00 Chris: first time?
03:37:09 SCAMMER: those muggers took my wallet and bank card from me
03:37:42 Chris: how much you need?
03:37:51 SCAMMER: am stuck here at the moment
03:38:03 SCAMMER: and i need help with my flight ticket back home
03:38:26 Chris: yeesh, not sure i have that kind of scratch
03:38:49 SCAMMER: I Was wondering if i could get a quick loan from you to complete my ticket fee
03:38:55 SCAMMER: $650
03:39:04 Chris: yeah i definitely dont have that
03:39:08 SCAMMER: I Would refund it back to you as soon as am back home
03:39:24 SCAMMER: How much can you afford to me as we speak
03:39:27 Chris: well
03:39:37 Chris: if you can wait 6 or 8 hours
03:39:51 Chris: me and [EX-COWORKER1] and maybe [EX-COWORKER2] can get that together
03:40:20 SCAMMER: My flight leaves london in less than some hours
03:40:32 SCAMMER: That is why i want to know how much you can afford
03:40:34 Chris: yeah i just paid $2100 in rent
03:41:15 SCAMMER: How much can you afford to me
03:41:18 SCAMMER: Now
03:41:23 Chris: maybe $200
03:41:29 Chris: hang on a sec
03:41:35 SCAMMER: Ok
03:43:18 Chris: is this a business trip?
03:43:35 SCAMMER: I Came here on vacation
03:43:57 SCAMMER: Can you make the it $300
03:44:13 Chris: not if i want to eat in the next couple of days
03:44:37 SCAMMER: i promise to refund it back to you as soon as am back home
03:45:04 SCAMMER: You can have the money to me through western union
03:46:07 Chris: what does [OLD ROOT PASSWD] mean to you
03:46:34 SCAMMER: am freaked out right now man
03:46:43 SCAMMER: so i can’t get what you mean by that
03:46:51 Chris: did you file a police report?
03:47:01 SCAMMER: Yeah
03:47:12 SCAMMER: But is not yielding result
03:47:36 SCAMMER: Cos i was asked to wait till three weeks time before i get my a** out of here
03:47:40 Chris: who is [OLD BOSS]
03:48:13 Chris: what is your flight number / carrier?
03:48:46 SCAMMER: It was in my wallet when those robbers came in
03:48:57 SCAMMER: so there absconded with my wallet
03:49:10 Chris: establish your identity
03:49:29 SCAMMER: SCAMMER
03:49:36 Chris: what’s your paypal addr?
03:49:49 SCAMMER: what do you need that for
03:50:09 Chris: don’t try to scam a scammer, son
03:50:25 SCAMMER: Really
03:51:17 Chris: i think we’re done here.
Changed status to Offline (03:51:21)

    Now how crazy is that?  Real-time chatting with someone who has stolen your friend’s login information and is now trying to get you to send him money.  From a scam perspective, my first reaction was “Wow, that’s not very efficient”, because it required one on one interaction with each of your victims… but after thinking about it further, this is how cons have traditionally played out!  After doing some quick Googling, turns out it’s working too!  Of the first four links I found after searching for “Facebook scam stuck in London” (yeah, they apparently haven’t bothered to update the city they’re stuck in), one had sent them $300.  Not too shabby… I mean if you’re into stealing other people’s money from them.

    So how does something like this happen?  Well, presumably Chris’ friend has fallen for one of the growing number of phishing scams on Facebook (this type of attack could just as easily take place on MySpace) and unknowingly provided these goons with his login credentials.  After that, it’s just a sit and wait game.  A friend pops online… you hit them up.

Think you would fall for this type of scam?  Let me know what you think.

– Dan Thompson

P.S. Special thanks to Chris for letting me steal his thunder a bit.  Good stuff!

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