Chicago, IL – July 28 - With more than 500 million active users in July 2010, Facebook has become the most used social network by worldwide active users. However, messages and wall posts from your “friends” may contain hidden scams promoting diet supplements or other pricey products. The Better Business Bureau warns consumers to use caution with these messages before friends become scammers.
Social networking websites are a great way to find old classmates, stay connected with friends, or even make new friends. Unfortunately, as a result of the increase in popularity or these networks, hackers have learned how to use Web sites like Facebook in order to disseminate viruses or steal identities.
“Sites like Facebook are extremely popular because they allow us to connect and reconnect with people we know and trust,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Scammers know that they can take advantage of that trust by masquerading themselves as friends, family members and coworkers in order to easily disseminate viruses or steal personal information such as bank or credit card numbers.”
Deborah Jezuit, a complainant from Round Lake, Ill., fell victim to an acai berry supplement offer on Facebook. She stated, “I got a message through Facebook and it said it was from my best friend who is also a dietician. The message that was supposed to be from her said that she had lost six pounds in a week and that I should try the product. I really wanted to jumpstart my weight loss. The link went through to an article and website and it offered an acai berry supplement free trial for $3.97 shipping. Ordinarily, I would never respond to an offer like this but I was comfortable since the info was supposed to be from my friend. As soon as I placed the order I got a popup message that said that I was going to be charged $3.97 right away while I had a chance to try the product but that there would be a $139.86 joining fee and a $49.21 membership fee monthly after that. I checked my debit account right away and they had billed the $3.97 plus the $139.86 immediately. I tried to call the company to cancel and could not get through even after I kept trying. I e-mailed them a couple of times and the e-mails bounced back. I contacted my bank to avoid even more charges. Also—of course my friend told me that she never sent the message.”
The BBB offers the following tips for staying safe on social networking sites:
- Be extremely wary of messages from friends or strangers that direct the user to another Web site via a hyperlink.
- Social networking sites are about sharing information; however, the BBB recommends users to take steps to keep important information private through many privacy policies offered on the websites.
- Be smart and selective when choosing friends. While a user might not want to be rude, it’s best to decline a request for friendship if the user doesn’t actually know the person.
- Always make sure your computer’s operating system and antivirus and firewall software are up to date.
For more advice on staying safe online, visit www.bbb.org
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.