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You Can’t Always Trust Your “Friends”

Being online is customary for many in today’s society. It’s not uncommon for one to check their Facebook or Twitter feed frequently, share interesting stories and life details, or engage with others over the Internet. Be aware that scammers also lurk on these sites looking for their next victim. Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) warns consumers of various scams that seem to start off with innocent contact and communications on social media but end up as costly lessons.

For example, there is a new twist on an old sweetheart scam. These scams involve someone posing as a love interest, gaining the trust of the victim, and then tapping into their cash. Most recently, a con artist befriended someone on Facebook and after striking up an online romance, they convinced the victim that they should move into a rent-to-own home together. She was introduced to a “broker” who persuaded her to sign a generic blank real estate purchase agreement. She also wired over $2,300 to someone in Nigeria that claimed to be the property owner. She ended up with no home, the loss of a significant amount of money, and continued pressure from scammers asking for more money.

Other instances of scams involving “friends” include emails from someone you believe you know urging you to try a product, enter a sweepstakes, or even apply for a job because they have personally had amazing results. We have found that these messages are often not even from “friends”. Instead, imposters hack accounts or spoof profiles in an effort to make their prey believe they are communicating with a trusted source. Their goal is to get your money or steal personal information from you to commit further fraud.

Consumers should be warned of the signs indicating you may be dealing with a scam. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Don’t assume that a communication you receive is really from your friend. Remember, crafty scammers use every angle possible to mislead their victims. If you receive a message that you aren’t sure about from someone you know, call them to verify.
  • Never wire money to someone you do not know or whom you have not checked out thoroughly. Even after vetting them, it is better to pay with a credit card so that there is some recourse if there is a problem.
  • If you’re looking for a rental, be cautious about requests to pay deposits before you even view the property, contacts from people outside of the country trying to rent you property, listings that appear too good to be true or list properties at extremely low prices. Never sign a blank lease or contract and don’t pay until you have secured a lease and confirmed that the person renting the property has authorization to do so.

If you believe you have been contacted by a scam, BCA wants to know about it. Tell us about your experience by visiting our website, leaving a message on our Facebook page, or calling us at (800) 834-1119.

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About Business Consumer Alliance Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.