Facebook Hoax Undermines Trust

Several months ago, CBS 11 in northern Texas published a story about a local radio host who was duped by a Facebook scam. Mike Rhyner, who co-hosts the Hardline on 1310 the Ticket, however, was only responding to what he thought was a plea from a close friend.

Here’s how the hoax suckered Rhyner out of more than $100:

Someone hacked into the Facebook page of one of Rhyner’s friends, a woman named Sharyn Fein. The hacker used Fein’s account to claim that she was stuck in London without any money or credit cards. The post also said that her cell phone had been stolen along with her other belongings. The woman desperately needed some money to help her get home, so she turned to her Facebook  friends.

Rhyner decided to wire over $1000 because he wanted to help her get home safely. Luckily, Rhyner was able to stop the wire shortly after learning that Fein wasn’t even in London, let alone trapped there helplessly. The funds never reached the hacker, but that doesn’t mean that other people haven’t fallen prey to the hoax.

This isn’t the first time that someone has used this hoax to scam money from people on social networking sites. Someone even gained access to the account of Michael Feldman, host of Whad’ya Know, and sent requests to his friends. According to Feldman’s discussion of the incident on his show, though, no one believed that it was actually him. He mostly received taunts from his loved ones.

Hoaxes like  this undermine the trust that we have in our friends online. Imagine that someone was able to hack into a friend’s body and impersonate them. Given a good enough story, you would likely hand over a consider amount of money to them if they really needed it. This is basically what happens with this type of Facebook scam. We make the mistake of believing that the profile is the friend. Sometimes, though, the profile is just someone impersonating that person.

It’s a lesson for all of us not to take anything on faith when its posted online. You never know who’s behind those sad stories.


~ by facebookhoaxes on June 17, 2010.

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