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Don't scam me, bro!

This morning a scammer got ahold of a friend's Facebook account and tried to get me to send him money. I soon realized that I was being scammed. I told him to go away. I emailed my friend and told him what happened. He said 6 other people contacted him about the same thing.

He has since changed his FB password and contacted FB about it.

I thought you might be interested in the transcript:

(To protect my friend, I've changed his name to "FRIEND" and deleted [other things] but the transcript is interesting.)

7:41am FRIEND: Hey
7:50am Tom: good morning!
7:50am FRIEND: Am happy you are here
7:52am FRIEND: Are you there?
7:54am Tom: yup
7:55am FRIEND: Am in a deep mess right now
7:57am FRIEND: Are you here?
7:58am Tom: you are? i'm sorry to hear that
7:58am FRIEND: Am stuck in London
7:58am FRIEND: I was mugged at a gun point last night
7:58am Tom: holy shit!
7:58am Tom: are you ok?
7:58am FRIEND: All cash credit card and cell was stolen off me
7:58am FRIEND: It was scary am just happy i was not hurt
7:59am Tom: yeah, me too.
7:59am FRIEND: Have been to the cops and also to the embassy am glad they really helping
8:00am FRIEND: My return flight back home leaves in some few hours from now
[Note: at this point I realize that all his friends are in California and won't wake up for 2-3 hours. Being on east-coast time I'm likely one of the few people he knows that is awake.]
8:02am Tom: do you need anything?
8:02am FRIEND: Yes
8:02am FRIEND: but am having a little problem in settling my hotel bills before leaving
8:02am FRIEND: I need you to help me with some money to settle the bills and also get
8:02am FRIEND: a cab to the airport..i will def refund it back as soon as i get back
8:02am FRIEND: home tomorrow
8:02am FRIEND: Are you there?
[Note: any time I paused for more than 30 seconds he asked "Are you there?". Scammers want to keep your attention so that you don't have enough time to think and therefore realize you are being scammed.]
8:02am FRIEND: I promise paying you back
[Note: Bad grammar is a sign of a scammer. FRIEND wouldn't have said "paying you back".]
8:04am Tom: ok
8:04am Tom: how much is it?
8:05am FRIEND: $940
8:05am FRIEND: All you need is my info....
8:06am Tom: ok
8:07am FRIEND: Name:FRIEND [his last name]
8:07am FRIEND: Address: [someplace in Chiswick, London]
[Note: At this point I suspect that it is a scam. I decide to continue to play along just in case it isn't, but at the same time ask some personal questions to verify it is FRIEND. FRIEND and I know each other through a national organization. He, a woman in SF, and I became good friends. If he remembers her last name, it would be him.]
8:08am Tom: Hey, remember in SF there was an activist we worked with ... first name [female name]. What was her last name?
8:09am FRIEND: I cant remember anything now
8:09am FRIEND: Am freaked out
8:09am FRIEND: All am thinking of right now is how to get back home
[Note: He couldn't possibly forget this person's last name. Heck, if he mentioned any fellow activist that we both know I would belive it was FRIEND. However, I decide to lead him on.]
8:10am Tom: ok, tell me how to send the money?
8:10am Tom Oh, and what was the organization we worked together in?
8:13am FRIEND: i do you know any western union outlet near you
8:13am Tom: yes
8:16am FRIEND: You can go there and wire it to me
8:16am Tom: answer my questions.
8:16am FRIEND: I will be right here waiting for you
8:17am Tom: Can you call me?
8:18am FRIEND: My cell was stolen by the muggers
[Note: Sure, yeah]
8:18am Tom: What hotel did you stay at?
8:18am FRIEND: Thomas my flight leaves in some few hours
8:18am FRIEND: I will like you to be fast with it
8:18am FRIEND: So i don't miss my flight
[Note: At this point I know it isn't FRIEND but I suddenly realize that if it was FRIEND, I really could help him. My last job had a big office in London and I still have plenty of friends there. Any one of them would take an hour off work to help him if I just asked. I was interested in what would happen if I made the offer to give him that kind of help. Expecting him to say that it wouldn't be fast enough, I gave it a try.]
8:19am Tom: You know I have 10 co-workers in London. I can have one of them bring you the money and drive you to the airport.
8:19am Tom: I have many friends in London. They will help you.
8:20am FRIEND: Wire it to me through western union it will be fast and safe for me
8:20am Tom: This will be even faster.
8:20am Tom: Name any projects, organization or ANYTHING that we've done together.
8:20am Tom: Then I will know if you are really FRIEND.
8:22am FRIEND: ok
8:22am FRIEND: If that will make you know it me
[Note: more lovely bad grammar.]
8:23am Tom: For example, tell me what town in New Jersey you grew up in.
[Note: Even though FRIEND lives in California, you can't mention New Jersey or the town he grew up in without prompting him to tell you anecdotes from growing up there and the family store they operated. I should have started with this. Even though I know it isn't FRIEND, I give it a try.]
8:25am Tom: or what your father did for a living.
8:25am FRIEND: [cut and paste random sentences from his Facebook profile page.]
[Note: The things from his facebook aren't even edited to remove the punctuation or other signs that it is just randomly selected tidbits being pasted into the chat conversation.]
8:26am Tom: Good bye. You are not FRIEND.

At this point he didn't send me any more IMs. As I said, I sent FRIEND the full transcript by email and he told me that 6 others had contacted me. Luckily he has all smart friends and nobody was fooled.

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you know, is western union good for anything legit?

That's what I'm wondering myself. I mean I imagine there's a lot of people that have to wire money across the country without mailing a check, or just doing a direct depost into a checking account or something. (That's how I "send" my mom money when she needs it. I have her account # and I just fill out a deposit slip and hand it to the bank.)

I wonder if WU implemented some sort of "Receiver must have valid Passport or Driver's License Number" thing to cut down on fraud---if that would help?

I have sent a friend money via Western Union before. Maybe once.

Had about the same conversation on FB. Decided to ignore it. Thanks for your expose, Tom. :)

Same thing happened to my account. They got the password through the Android Facebook app. Tried the scam on several friends. All of them were like, "What are you doing in London when you just posted about your chickens on your blog?" Scammer got scared and signed out. but first he'd undone all my privacy settings on my account, dammit.

I immediately uninstalled the app. It was one of the few times I've appreciated Apple's control over iPhone apps.

BTW, the same scammer has several other apps for things like Craigslist, and uses them similarly.

once it was obvious he was a scammer you should have asked something along the lines of "what was the last time you sucked my cock" :)

Well, it's good to know that if I'm somehow stuck in London without my wallet or cellphone but with mysterious internet access, you'll set me up with coworker assist. :)

I read about this when it happened to someone else a few months ago and the transcript looked almost identical. They are all following a script, as you know, and probably share possible questions and responses with each other inside their gangs.

Wow, that's the most creative scam I've heard about in a while!

(Deleted comment)
1. I haven't talked to him in years and he's got the $ to travel a bunch, so it is likely.

2. True. But I'm sure they're script has a way to explain that way. Though, if he was traveling for work, work would resolve it, eh?

3. All they need is a person at Western Union to be in on the scam. They might get 20% of the take, but that's just part of doing business.

I think this case of identity theft ends at facebook. Dozens of people are reporting this same problem (maybe a lot more than that... FB isn't talking).


(Deleted comment)
Because the fees they get from a fraudulent transaction are the same as the ones they get from a legit one?

It'd be interesting to know which office they use, though.

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