“Mark Wahlberg” sent me a Facebook friend request today!
Yes me! Isn’t that completely and totally dreamy?!? I clicked on the request and THERE WAS HIS PICTURE!!! The thing was, he didn’t seem to have any friends–like you’d think a big celebrity would, and aside from his picture and bio, there were no other posts–celebrities usually post a lot–they have people for that–which made me feel bad about my decision not to friend him–he seemed so alone. I might have been his first friend, maybe he’s just starting on Facebook and out of millions of pictures and profiles, he saw mine and thought, “Wow, I want to be that woman’s friend!” Only, isn’t he married?…No matter, nothing can quell my excitement!
…except that it was obviously a cloned account and the human behind the account could wreak havoc amongst my real friends on Facebook, and become super annoying on Messenger. That’s why I had to say no to “Mark”.
Welcome to the new Wild West for spammers and scammers on Facebook and Messenger.
I’ve been on Facebook for years now, and until recently, purposely kept my account small. I enjoyed interacting with my friends, seeing their pictures and catching up. Facebook was my happy place. When I started my blog, Sharingajourney.com, and it’s corresponding Facebook page, my friend count grew. I was happy to have new friends who shared my interests and followed my various posts. Then came Messenger, the add-on I didn’t want and never used.
Messenger opened the door to direct, private and more personal communication within Facebook’s platform. For years, my Messenger account lay dormant, then, people began to reach out and thank me for adding them as a Facebook “Friend”. For some reason it was better to use direct messaging than to say hi in a post. More personal, I guess. Some people wrote kind notes about my page or asked about the clothes I was wearing. But as my follower count has grown, so too have the reasons people direct message me.
People in direct sales offer me opportunities to join their down lines or buy their products; (Who knew there were so many different Direct Marketing companies!) The thing is, I’m not sure people want cold calls on Facebook and there’s the trust factor–you don’t know who you are dealing with–so this approach doesn’t seem very effective and is annoying.
I get messages from missionaries, and other religious types some sending random bible verses and blessings, some ask me what religion I practice, offering salvation in case I am not Christian. Others ask for money to support various missions and sick parishioners. This is, again, annoying and raises my scam alert radar.
A young girl reached out, looking for a mother–attempting to sell me on the virtues of her father–sending along his photo and bio for review and hopeful approval. People who say they are sick ask for money to pay for housing, food and medical support.
The Infamous Nigerian Prince has reappeared along with dying women wanting me to invest their millions into charities. (Like a stranger, completely un-vetted would be a good choice to manage a vast fortune)–ok, I did have a little fun: I suggested my trust attorney would be great for the job and suddenly, they disappeared. And anyway, I already know it’s a money laundering scheme.
To any and all of the above communications, I ignore, block and or report depending on the type of threat I think they pose.
And then there are the men of Facebook…
Ah, The Men of Facebook…In addition to “Mark”, a handsome general sent me a friend request, along with several famous politicians. Wow, really? Me, from a random small town in Florida?
About two months ago, I got an onslaught of male friend requests, handsome, prosperous looking guys in my age group all of whom were widowers with great sounding jobs–scam alert! Could the world really have produced so many handsome widowers and then placed them all in my friend requests or “people you may know” feed all at the same time–a virtual smorgasbord of eligible bachelors? None of them seemed to have any friends, families, hobbies, or interests, just a picture or two and a very basic bio.
(As you look at the handsome, prosperous looking guy in the profile, imagine what he may really be like, all scroungy and stinky sitting in a grimy Internet cafe somewhere unpleasant–because that’s most likely the case.) Ever suspicious, I began researching online dating scams, and here’s the typical scenario:
He tells you he’s recently widowed and lonely, looking for a serious relationship with the the right woman. (I wonder if this is what “Mark Wahlberg” have said…). He quickly lets you know that he’s thinking you are the right woman and drops hints of his wealth. He likes fine dining, likes to treat his women right and loves romantic vacations. He misses his deceased wife, but feels he might be willing to try for love again with you. He wants to make plans to meet, and to take that special trip. If all goes well, the two of you begin making plans for the trip, but he has a glitch and needs you to send cash or your credit card info to him; or, he offers to help you with your business goals, by his investing in your business or an investment dream of yours. He makes a nominal investment or a series of them, all the while angling to get into your financial accounts. Once in, well you know the rest.
(And, no, the story doesn’t end with his being the real Mark Wahlberg, or some other wonderful guy and you got married and lived happily ever after–remember, you are really communicating with that scroungy Internet cafe guy, whom, if you are lucky, you will never see nor send money to.)
Now, if you for some reason friend one of these crazy people, they can be seen on your real friend’s “people you may know” feed and the scourge makes it’s rounds. While you can’t stop a scammer or spammer from trying, you can be careful who you “friend”, exercise a little healthy skepticism, and make use of Facebook’s block and report features. With those simple tools, you too can live happily ever in Facebook Land, with your bank account and heart intact.