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Nigerian 419 scammers ditch email for Facebook

So-called '419' email scams are a threat recognised by most, even in these cash-starved, dream-rich times. But the crooks behind the 'I'm a Nigerian prince living in poverty because I require $500 to free up 100 billion groats' nonsense have changed up. Now, they're your Facebook friends. See also: Fraudsters hit Facebook with 'Nigerian 419' scam.

According to a blog posting by Graham Cluley of Sophos, one Karina Wells recently received a Facebook message purporting to be from her (Facebook) friend Adrian. According to the message, poor old Adrian was stranded in the Nigerian city of Lagos. He said he needed $500 in order to get home. (Note to my Facebook friends: if you can afford to go to Africa, you can afford to get home.)

To add to this story's peculiar genius, Ms Wells works for Google. Even so, initially she was inclined to believe Adrian's woes - a Facebook message does, after all, seem much more personal than an email. But given the way we all compete to have the most Facebook friends, this is something of a misnomer. Do you really know where all your Facebook friends are at a given time? Do you know who they are? (Do you want to?)

Indeed, Wells became suspicious and contacted Facebook - but only when the scammers started using American phrases such as 'cell phone'. Adrian would never do that.

So Wells played along with the scammer, telling the Sydney Morning Herald: "I pretended that I would help, obtained all the details of where he was and forwarded them to both Facebook and the relevant authorities."

So hey, don't have nightmares. Online safety is largely a question of common sense (and being tight with money). As Cluley says: "Don't reveal all your personal details online and be wary of messages with unusual demands - just because they come from a 'friend' doesn't make them legitimate."

And anyway, who do you really love enough to give five hundred notes to?

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