What Will Facebook Do to Stop New Scams?  

Posted by: shilpz in ,

Just as we suspected, more scams have begun to arrive on Facebook. The latest have appeared via chat, where the scammer hacks into a friend’s account and initiates a chat conversation begging for money. The situation is always similar enough–they’re stranded in some foreign land and need money wired into their account so that they can get a return flight home. While the channel for the scam is on the newer side, a little bit unsettling given its occurrence on Facebook, the scam’s motif is nothing new at all. And it’s Facebook’s response time that has many worried about the social network’s ability to readily handle the situation. The Wall Street Journal reminds us of a settlement requirement Facebook agreed to after being investigated by New York State Attorney General, demanding that Facebook respond to certain user complaints within 24 hours. This is usually taken care of with an automated message within the first 24 hours, and according to Facebook, gives the company another few days to handle the situation and respond with a personalized and detailed message with follow-up information. But that doesn’t appear to be the case with the new IM scammers.

All the more unsettling is Facebook’s statement to Silicon Alley Insider, indicating that the IM scams aren’t widespread enough for Facebook to take extreme action. Given the over-abundance of information that has been given out to Internet users in the past two years regarding scams via email and other communications lines on the web, it seems that Facebook would recognize the scam’s ability to grow very quickly, especially on its readily accessed and non-archived chat tool. While it’s uncertain how the scammers are hacking into user accounts, this could also be a concern for Facebook as it looks to grow its Platform and Facebook Connect, both of which sometimes enable indirect login options for end users, though Facebook is diligent about protecting users from this standpoint.
So what will Facebook do, and is there anything it can do to improve security measures? Going back to the WSJ article, Mark Neely, a Sydney-based management consultant is referenced as someone who was targeted by a scammer. When complaining to Facebook, he only received a response after going public with his complaint and having his letter forwarded directly to a Facebook employee.

Not all users have the wherewithal, the time or the resources in order to do this–and if they all could then Facebook would really have a problem on its hands. But the lack of Facebook response is becoming a tiresome trend. Heather Farley faced this trend when she solicited an explicit response from Facebook regarding the removal of her breast-feeding photos. After receiving now, Farley went public and started a protest that spread across the globe in a matter of days.
Could Facebook squelch some major bad press by merely responding to user requests in a more timely manner? I’m sure it’s difficult to go through all the letters from users, regarding username changes, privacy questions, and impending chat scams that will likely get out of hand very soon. And since this particular chat scam isn’t the only one to plague the social network in recent weeks, it may just look like another issue to throw on the back burner for now.

But I think its presence in an IM chat window makes this particular scam slightly more threatening, given the fact that Facebook doesn’t automatically save conversations and an IM chat seems particularly more personal than a random email or private Facebook message.
On the upside, it’s equally as easy to recognize a scammer via chat if their English is particularly bad, and the immediacy of its two-way conversation proves a good way to call out a scammer by requesting mutually known information that only you and the real friend behind that profile would know. So until Facebook finds a way to let its users know about the potential for a chat scam, and subsequently finds a way to diffuse the situation from a user safety stand point, be wary of Facebook friends that are stranded and asking for money. If you have any doubts as to your friend’s genuine predicament, give your friend a call and see if they’re OK. Because that’s what real friends do.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 and is filed under , . You can leave a response and follow any responses to this entry through the Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom) .


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