Your Money ; Scam Alert
Hackers join Facebook, MySpace rush
False Friends By Sid Kirchheimer
When Bryan Rutberg first appeared on Facebook last December, he joined millions of other boomers,
who are the fastest-growing users of social
A month later, the 47-year-old tech industry
executive became a victim of a scam that is
increasingly occurring on websites like Facebook, MySpace and class reunion sites.
On Jan. 21, Rutberg discovered his Facebook page had been hacked with this alarming message: BRYAN IS IN URGENT NEED
OF HELP! He tried to access his page to
remove the warning,
but his password had
been changed. When
he tried to alert his
friends from his wife’s
Facebook account that
he was OK, he says,
the scammer had “
de-friended” her, blocking
any messages he sent.
Facebook friends who
had posted “what’s
were getting replies
from the hacker, who
posed as Rutberg and
claimed that he had
been robbed in London
and needed money to
One concerned friend,
Beny Rubinstein, wired
$1,200 overseas, which the trickster quickly
collected. In e-mail exchanges, the hacker had
provided enough personal details to convince
Rubinstein he was Rutberg. “If you’re looking
to impersonate someone, Facebook is a good
place to start,” Rutberg says. “My page has the
names and photographs of my wife, kids, parents, friends, where I went to high school and
college—all kinds of personal information.”
With such details readily posted, identity
thieves “are clearly investing time and resources on social networks,” says Ryan Naraine
of Kaspersky Lab, an online security firm.
A common ruse: tricking users into downloading a program that records their keystrokes. It’s likely that Rutberg inadvertently
downloaded one such program, providing his
Facebook e-mail and password to the identity
One common virus on social networks is
called Koobface (from the word “Facebook”),
berg says e-mails to Facebook reporting his
hacking went unanswered for several days.
To avoid problems on social networks—or
anywhere else online:
; Don’t click on links provided in messages—
even from friends—unless you check them
with a phone call or off-website e-mail.
; Get program updates by going to the company’s website, not through a provided link.
; Make your Facebook account private so
that only friends can see your details.
; Scan your computer regularly with an updated antivirus program.
; Be suspicious of anyone—even a “friend”—
who asks for money over the Internet.
Report suspicious activity on social networks to that website and to the Internet
Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. ;
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof
Your Life (AARP Books/Sterling)
16 AARP BULLETIN JUNE 2009