January 24, 2009

419 Scammers Set Up Roost on Facebook

The art of the largely Nigerian-based '419' e-mail scam is a unique one, but a familiar one. Anybody who has had an active e-mail account for any amount of time has seen the heartfelt pleas for assistance and funding to help safeguard huge amounts of assets that need to be moved, allegedly due to a stressful situation, be it a political coup, a horrific accident or simply death, followed by inheritance. The scams themselves have migrated from snail mail to fax machines, e-mail, and most recently Facebook, as noted by Network World back in November.

Yesterday, I got a note from a Stella Moroba via Facebook. Stella and I are not friends, so far as I can tell, which makes sense, as I doubt she is connected to anyone at all. Stella, in the most ardent way she knew how, told me she has access to "the sum of Two million Five hundred thousand United State Dollars", which I could gain a portion of on two conditions: that I "serve as a guardian to me and then assist me transfer the money into your bank account" and second, "make arrangement for me to come over to your country to further my education and then settle there parmanently". (sic)

Unfortunately for Stella, what with working full time, twins and all this online nonsense, I don't have too many cycles to pass her way to ensure her financal and personal freedom. But I did have a few, so I did a quick search on Facebook and found 214 different results for Stella Moroba, including the occasional Moroba Stella. Unsurprisingly, none of the handful I checked out had any friends, or even bothered to put up a profile picture. So disappointing!

Facebook has taken aggressive measures to ban members who violate the network's terms of service. Seemingly every day we hear about new people who believe they have been unnecessarily booted - and we covered one of those issues last summer. Before any unsuspecting victims rise from Ms. Moraba and her clones, don't you think Facebook would notice the creation of more than 200 identical accounts, and the inevitable onslaught of spam within the system? I certainly didn't accept Ms. Moroba as a friend, and don't believe she should be sending me messages. Isn't that the purpose of friending in Facebook, so you can avoid getting messages from people you don't really know?

If you are interested in helping Ms. Moroba and her family with their strife, e-mail me. I can hook you up. Even if Facebook does eventually delete her account, she helpfully provided her e-mail address and phone number.