Larceny                                               August 2019
This morning I got a Facebook friend request from Marie Durant at Grand Bassam. There is no picture, I don’t know any Marie Durant, and I don’t know where Grand Bassam is.  The temptation is to take a look at Marie’s profile by tapping on her name.  That alone could have disastrous results.  Here is why.

First, the entire email, though it looks like it came through official Facebook channels, could be a fake and a way to hack into my computer. That hack could place software into my system to be used for other purposes later. I will explain in a little bit.

Secondly, I only give access to my friend list to my friends.  If I allowed Marie to become my friend, she would have access to all 687 other friends on their Facebook pages.  That can be the beginning of the scam which I call the “lost passport no money” ruse that tries to extort funds from my real friends. “Bob is traveling in Italy and lost his passport and wallet and needs funds to get home.“

When I get my monthly billing reminder from the utilities or other sources, I never use the links in that email to pay my bills. I always go to Google and get on my own reliable connections.  The Internet crooks are getting really good at their game.

As a real estate broker, I am involved in transactions involving a great deal of money.  Here is a true story about why I am so careful. A Realtor was buying her own new house and received wiring instructions from escrow. Appropriately, she called the escrow officer to verify that the email had been sent.  It had, but unknown to her, a previous link click, perhaps many months before, had placed software in her computer.  The hacker copied the email from escrow, erased the original, and resent it with a new account number and stole her $185,000 wired funds.

You have all received avatar Facebook requests.  A friend that is already a FB friend sends a new request.  He is not the person he says he is and certainly not friendly.

It is sad but true that we must now be suspicious of every communication.  The Realtor should have verified the account numbers when calling the escrow officer on the phone.  Every time I get a friend request, I check my friend list to see if they are already on it.  I will never know Marie Durant, even if she is the niece of the former Treasury Secretary for the African Union and has a suitcase filled with $100 bills in a locker at the airport waiting for me.

It is hard as good citizens to think like a thief. We don’t have larceny in our hearts like the evil ones. In these troubled times we must always consider what could happen before we act.

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