This is another case of distress scams, but was called the “Facebook scam” because the scammer hacks into a Facebook account, and uses that to send out distress signals. Distress scams could happen to any types of accounts, and in the past, we have reports of scammers hacking into Yahoo email account as well.

Cecile was nearly the victim of what All Facebook calls, The Western Union Scam, “I’ve Been Robbed! Western Union Me Money!”

“You’re browsing around Facebook and suddenly one of your friends instant messages (IM) you to tell you that they’re stuck in another country, they’ve been robbed, don’t have a wallet, and need money to get out of the country. It’s a horrible situation but what are the odds that they found a computer to log on to in order to instant message you? Even worse, what are the odds that one of your friends who was traveling abroad got robbed and wasn’t able to find anybody to help them out?”

Cecile said she was browsing and received a message she thought was legitimate because it had her friend’s photo and address. The message was that the friend and family was in London and they had been mugged and robbed.

Cecile wondered what they were doing in London, Arkansas. The message sender then related that all they had were their passports. At that point Cecile said she became suspicous because she knew that the person was in Springdale just two days earlier. She decided to play along and while continuing to communicate on Facebook she text messaged other friends by phone to confirm that the people in question were not in London, England.

The main reason for the message was that the senders wanted Cecile to wire  $550 to an unidentifiable email address. No telephone numbers or physical addresses were given.

Cecile said she reported the incident to both the Sheriff’s Office and to the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, but there is nothing those agencies can do.

“Most of the times that this happens, it is a scammer who has stolen your friend’s account and is systematically going through and IMing each of their friends to try and get money wired to them. Don’t fall for it!” All Facebook warns.

However, some scammers did some research and called directly on the phone, claiming to be a friend, grandchildren (targeting elderly) or relative in distress and need money to be wired by Western Union.

Why Western Union? Its simple. In case when someone really lost their wallet with the ID and passport, they can still collect money from Western Union simply by providing a MTCN No, a number that is generated by WU when the sender sends the money.

Scammers like to use Western Union as well because its easier for them to collect money without revealing their ID, and hence more difficult to trace.