Dangerous Facebook Messenger scam can hijack your account in seconds – as cyber experts reveal how to stay safe
A MASSIVE scam operation targeting Facebook Messenger users has been identified by cyber experts.
Researchers from security firm Group-IB revealed this week that the attackers behind the scheme were hijacking the accounts of their unsuspecting victims.
Users in at least 84 countries, including Canada, the United States, Singapore and South Africa, have been targeted by the campaign.
According to Group-IB, cyber crooks distributed advertisements promoting a fake updated version of Messenger.
Those who clicked or tapped on the ad were taken to a separate web page where they were asked to enter their login details.
Around 1,000 fake Facebook profiles were involved in the scam, according to the Singapore-based company.
“By distributing advertisements promoting an allegedly updated version of Facebook Messenger, cybercriminals have harvested user login credentials,” Group-IB wrote in a blog post Tuesday.
“As soon as this type of fraud was discovered, Group-IB informed the social network, which has nothing to do with fake messages.”
Security firm researchers first came across the bogus update scam in the summer of 2020.
Since then, the number of posts related to the scam has grown steadily.
In April, the number of Facebook posts urging users to install “the latest Messenger update” reached 5,700, Group IB said.
To get users’ attention, scammers registered accounts with names that mimic the real app, such as Messanger, Meseenger, or Masssengar.
Many have used the Facebook Messenger logo as their profile picture.
A typical fake ad posted by one of these accounts reads: “To update Messenger 2021 and enjoy voice calls and video calls from here.”
How to protect yourself from hackers and crooks
FOLLOW these steps to protect yourself from hackers in the future:
- Create a “ strong ” password with 8 or more characters and a combination of uppercase characters, numbers and symbols
- Do not bank online on public WiFi unless it is absolutely necessary
- Don’t click on questionable email links claiming to be from banks
- Use different passwords for different sites
- Never reuse your primary email password
- Use antivirus software
- Don’t accept Facebook friend requests or LinkedIn invitations from people you don’t know
- Think before you put personal information on social media
- Find My iPhone, Android Lost, and BlackBerry Protect all allow you to remotely wipe a stolen phone. Configure this feature
- Buy only online on secure sites
- Don’t store your card details on websites
- Password protects your phone and other devices
Facebook uses filters to prevent fraudsters from posting fake ads on its platforms.
These obstacles can be easily avoided, however, by using shortened links to their fraudulent pages.
To attract users, the bogus ads promised access to non-existent features like the ability to see who visited your profile and see deleted posts.
The crooks even threatened users to ban Facebook Messenger if they did not register on the fake page.
“Users who have been victims of this scheme risk disclosing their personal data and having their account hacked,” wrote the IB group.
“The crooks will likely use the compromised account to trick victims into paying a ransom to gain access to their restored account, or even escalate the system by using the Facebook profile to serve fraudulent ads.”
The security company urged users to be cautious when following shortened links and to report a red flag if it leads to a poll or a one-page blog.
They also advised internet users to only enter their login credentials on the official app or on their favorite social media website.
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In other news, WhatsApp viral messages offering people free Amazon gifts have been declared a hoax by cyber experts.
Windows 10 users are advised to update now to fix 56 vulnerabilities that have been spotted in the software.
And, WhatsApp has had to delay its controversial deadline to get users to agree to new terms and conditions.
Have you recently spotted online scams? Let us know in the comments …
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