As Facebook now has more accounts than there are people in the United States, it should come as no surprise that it is possible to break into some of those 300 accounts. This happens. Well, what happens next when an attacker breaks into a Facebook account? Several things are likely. First, the attacker will retrieve as much information about the individual and his or her friends as possible. There are several key pieces of information that prove valuable:
- Birthday and Hometown are enough information for an attacker to reliably predict social security numbers of people born after 1989. You can hide this information from your profile by going to your profile, clicking on the little box in the upper right of the Information tab, and deselecting birthday and home town.
- Email address is useful to feed into a phishing/spam engine.
- Telephone # and IM account information is enough to either use or sell to other scammers.
Next, an attacker may try to directly contact friends to scam money out of them. While such attacks are unlikely to take the form of a 419 scam where the attacker tries to play on greed, they will more likely play on peoples’ sympathies.
Here is an example:
0Wn3d Friend: Hey
0Wn3d Friend: How are you doin?
Target: good evening, Friend!
Target: i’m doing well, and you and your family?!
0Wn3d Friend: Not too good
0Wn3d Friend: We are in a very deep mess
0Wn3d Friend: Glad you are here
Target: what happened?
0Wn3d Friend: We are stranded in London England
Target: WHAT?! how so?
Target: (in london)?
0Wn3d Friend: Kentish Town
0Wn3d Friend: We got mugged on our way back to the hotel at a gun point
Target: oh geez
Target: have you gone to the police?
Target: do you have a phone?
0Wn3d Friend: Yes,We were able to file a report to the cops and that is been Investigated
0Wn3d Friend: They made way with all we got here
0Wn3d Friend: Cash,bank cards and also the cell phone
Target: i have a few friends outside of london. are you in a hotel?
0Wn3d Friend: Yes
Target: do you still have your passports?
0Wn3d Friend: Yes,I’m still safe with the Passport
Target: ok. how long are you supposed to be in London?
0Wn3d Friend: That has been the problem
0Wn3d Friend: I seriously need your urgent help getting back home
Target: what hotel are you in?
0Wn3d Friend: Sector Hotel
0Wn3d Friend: I have a flight back home in the next 3hrs but the hotel management won’t let go
Target: do you have the hotel’s address & phone #?
0Wn3d Friend: I don,t have the #
Target: i’ll need an address
0Wn3d Friend: 151 Kentish Town Road, London, NW5 2CG
0Wn3d Friend: I’m having problem with the hotel on the bills
What happens next is that the attacker asks for a credit card.
So how do you know it’s a scam? First, Amazingly, Google is your friend. If you enter just a few details from this example, you’ll see that Kentish Town and the Sector Hotel show up as a scam. The other odd thing about this exchange is that the person claims to have been mugged at gun point in London. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s rare.
More importantly, ask yourself why this friend is contact you, and not calling a relative for help. To be sure, if this person really is a friend, you should already have a phone number for that person. Call him or her, but do not rely on contact information from the attacker. Calling a number they give you can cause you to lose a lot of money. If they answer the phone and have no idea what you’re talking about, you know it’s a scam. If they don’t answer, call a relative of theirs or ask for more details. In this case the person said they filed a police report. Get the report number from the person, name of an officer who took the report, and independently call the police. Do not rely on anything in the facebook profile of the friend. You should assume the attacker has already manipulated all of that information.
Most importantly, never send credit card information over the network in such circumstances.
Ok, so you’ve figured out it’s a scam. Congratulations! What do you do next? Report it, and fast. Facebook is pretty responsive when it comes to shutting down accounts. In one case I’ve reported, they reacted within 10 minutes. To report abuse on facebook, click on Help at the bottom of the page, and right at the top you will find the following:
Hacked accounts and spam
Click on that text, and it will help you report the information. You will need the URL of the profile of the friend who you are reporting. To get this, type the friend’s name in the search bar.
Don’t feel bad that you are reporting a friend, either. This is a case where your friend is being maliciously used, and you are doing your part to putting an end to it.