New Zealanders Lose $3M to Social Media Scams; Fraudsters Disguise as Facebook Friends

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By Reissa Su | June 3, 2014 12:00 PM EST

New Zealanders are being advised to be wary of viewing a Facebook friend's new video as fraudsters in social media often pose as Facebook friends. According to reports, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs issued a warning about online scams in line with Fraud Awareness Week.


The sun rises behind the entrance sign to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park before the company's IPO launch, May 18, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

The ministry said online social media scams, especially those in Facebook, have increased in number with many Kiwis falling victim after trusting updates from so-called "online friends." In the current  year, Kiwis have lost almost $3 million to various online scams.

NetSafe's chief technology officer Sean Lyons said social media scammers often take advantage of people who trust content when delivered through a friend's account or profile. Scammers will convince people that what they are offering is reliable and trustworthy.

Lyons said scammers target Facebook users and proliferate the method of "clickjacking." It is a technique used to trick online users into clicking hidden links and buttons. Scammers exploit the security weakness in web browsers to allow the layering and hiding of pages.

As a result, users often click on the play button of a video they thought was posted by a Facebook friend. However, they don't know they are clicking on a hidden link. Users will then be redirected to other pages that ask for personal information. These pages often encourage users to join a "competition." If information is entered, victims will be vulnerable to malicious software. Scammers will use their profiles to spread the scam online.

NetSafe warned Facebook users about clicking on suspicious or "goofy" posts from anyone even their Facebook friends. If the video is not something anyone would usually post, it is best for users not to click on it. NetSafe said a suspicious post may be a sign that their Facebook account has been hacked.

Online users can reduce the risk of scams by keeping browsers up to date. Aside from malicious software, Kiwis also fall victim to phishing scams. Fraudsters trick people into giving away personal information.  Scammers use status posts and messages of Facebook friends which they have already hacked.

Reports said phishers can send emails and messages, often posing as messages from popular apps like Mafia Wars and Farmville. Consumer Affairs encourages Kiwis to report scams to scamwatch.govt.nz. 

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The sun rises behind the entrance sign to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park before the company's IPO launch, May 18, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
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