Nigerian scams evolve to Facebook

Charlottetown women had her identity stolen in an attempt to scam her online friends

Andrew Chisholm comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 30, 2011
Facebook

A Charlottetown resident did a double take when Facebook recommended she add herself as a friend.

Turns out someone in Nigeria created an account on the social networking site impersonating Judy Gillis in an attempt to scam her friends.

Now police in Charlottetown are warning tech-savvy residents to be on the lookout for duplicated accounts in their friend lists.

Two weeks ago, Gillis received a request to add a friend who was already on her Facebook.

She thought it was a little odd but accepted the request thinking the friend had maybe created a new account or accidentally ended their digital friendship.

A few days later, Gillis noticed her name and profile picture show up in Facebook’s friend recommendation tool.

“I thought it was strange, so I left it alone,” said Gillis.

Then she received a message from a friend telling her she could get $70,000 from the Canadian government if she made a $350 payment.

“It said you just needed to direct the money to this Gmail address so I though, ‘yeah, this is a scam’.”

Turns out she was right and the Government of Canada is not giving out large chunks of cash through an email address hosted by Google — federalgovernment91@gmail.com.

Gillis reported the strange behaviour to police after her friends started receiving messages from a person they thought was her.

These messages offered the same sweet deal — a cool $70,000 for $350.

Charlottetown police traced the scam to Lagos, Nigeria.

“Fraudsters are creating a Facebook account using a name and profile picture from an existing Facebook account,” police said in a news release. “Once this has been achieved, they attempt to solicit money from others using Facebook.”

What upsets Gillis the most is her reputation could have been on the line.

She works for the federal government so her friends may have believed the offer for easy money was true.

“If I say it then it must be true and they go and get taken and get mad at me,” she said.

Thankfully, that hasn’t happened, said Gillis.

“I’ve told my friends, as much as I can, to be very careful with their privacy settings online,” she said.