Merlita Ellison was targeted by a social media scammer, not once....but twice.
"It's weird because you don't know who it is. It could be your neighbors."
Ellison was on Facebook when she got a friend request from her friend's husband. She couldn't remember whether or not they were friends so she took the bait.
"I received a message back saying how've you been, and I recently was contacted by some department I don't remember the name I don't believe it's real," she said. "I was given $150,000 of money that I was due and I happened to see your name on this list. Well the bells went off."
Luckily the retired NSA worker heard those bells.
"Whether it's a credit card number or your bank account even your social security. They want to engage you," Ellison said.
And once that happens .Angie Barnett of the Better Business Bureau says your troubles could just be beginning.
"When you are talking to them, they're going, not only do I have somebody live, I have somebody who is talking to me," she said. "They may fall for it."
You get dubbed a sucker and your information can be sold on the black market, and that's big business. With the internet and social media, scammers are getting creative.
"When Robin Williams passed away, on social media scam artists will post videos and they will say click on this ling to see and for example hear Robin Williams last words," Barnett said. "You're now interested so you click on this link to some great news and what it'll do is release malware into your computer."
And with that they can access your key strokes, stealing credit card or banking information and maybe even hold your computer hostage.
Remember the old fashioned scams you used to get at home for free vacations, prizes or timeshare sales? Those still exist, but now scammers have more devices to reach you.
"The first thing they do is create a sense of urgency that you've got to return this call immediately. His tone of voice is very serious, it becomes very threatening," Barnett said.
Unfortunately for them, my taxes were filed and the check in the mail when I got this call. But if you're unsure, you should contact the IRS.
"Call the IRS and say do I owe you money? Don't just give a credit card number to settle an IRS dispute, " Barnett said. "Regretfully you can't just trust these blind calls as much as you used to."
Merlita caught them this time before they could do any damage. She just hopes next time she can be as smart.
"As I become more senior, I just I can keep my wits about me and not fall into that because I'm a trusting person," she said.
Barnett says there are simple things you can do to protect yourself.
- Increase security settings on your social media accounts. Facebook offers step by step directions
- Never use the same passwords for your accounts and make them complicated. Use passwords with upper and lower case letters as well as numbers.
- Require two step authorization to access your banking accounts.
Looking for more tips? Check out the Better Business Bureau’s website.