Be on the alert for scams

Sometimes, the “friend” on Facebook Messenger is not actually a “friend” at all.

Such was the case for Nancy Lynch of Farmington.

On Wednesday, Lynch said she was pleased when there appeared to be a message from a high school classmate upon opening the social media’s messaging service.

“I’m not on Messenger a lot, but I have a classmate from years ago who is the head of the engineering department at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks,” Lynch said. “I had lost contact with him.”

Lynch said the friend was off Facebook for a period of time after his account was hacked … but she noticed he began posting recently.

“I noticed that I had somebody on Messenger,” she said. “I don’t get on there very often, but here was his picture and he was saying ‘how are you doing?’”

At that point, Lynch said, she shared with her “friend” what was going on in her life since he was last in the lower 48 states.

“We exchanged, I thought, a conversation back and forth for nearly an hour,” she said. “I asked if he was retired, he said ‘yes, I’m retired.’”

It was when her friend asked if Lynch had received her fund yet that she began to wonder if the “friend” was joking with her.

“I asked my husband if he had any idea what (the person) was talking about and he said, ‘no,’” she remembers. “I told him I had no idea what he was talking about.”

The “friend” then told Lynch the “Department of Human Relations” had a list of people who were owed money – prompting the Farmington woman to write back asking if it was a joke of some kind.

“He told me he got $100,000 delivered by FedEx,” she said. “And, he that he gave to some charities, paid off his house and paid some bills. I’m taking this as lightly as possible and said ‘I hope you tipped the driver really well.'"

The person went on to write instructing Lynch to visit a Facebook page or text a number to receive on how to claim her “money.”

“I got on Facebook and there indeed was a page,” she said. “He wrote back and said he saw my name was on the list and that’s why he was contacting me.”

She again asked her “friend” if he was joking with her … to which he replied he was not.

“He said, ‘this is no joke. When are you going to text this number?’” she said. “I told him, ‘probably when hell freezes over (with a chuckle).'"

Out of curiosity, Lynch said she called the number.

“I no more than hung-up (the phone) when they called me and texted me,” she said. “A woman introduced herself and said this was for people with disabilities, retirees and it was a random (event) with Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook and they just needed me to fill out a form.”

The person on the other end of the line also asked if Lynch preferred her money as a check or cash.

Around that time, Lynch said her son arrived home and immediately noticed it to be a scam.

She told her son about how her “friend” from school was the one to tell her about it – at which time she decided to call the friend on the phone.

“He had not been talking to me at all,” she said. “(Her friend) has now erased his Messenger … how scary is this?”

Thankfully, Lynch did not fill out any form. She has not received any phone calls or strange emails since that time. She told her story on her Facebook page last night to warn others.

“I don’t have a lot of friends (on Facebook) like some people,” she said. “But the people that I did … I was in choir practice last night and I’m finding out people are going through similar things like this. This one just really got me.”

She says her communication with her friend will be by phone from now on.

"Nothing really alerted me so much," she said. "I even went so far to say, 'you know, Leroy, I've not known you for a lot of years and I have no idea what your sense of humor is, so I don't know whether you're serious or not.

"I expect to maybe have something come up on my email or something like that. I didn't expect it on Messenger. It seemed like a true conversation.

"I've been telling everybody that I know and I'm finding that this isn't all that unusual. I don't know what would have happened if I filled out (the form) ... I think it's something we're all aware and afraid of now.

"A friend wrote 'nothing is free' and you have to remember that. I did not think I would get $100,000 ... I kept thinking it was a joke. I consider myself very much in the know, but I never expected (a scam) to come up like a personal conversation and respond back and forth to specific questions."

Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or srobinson@farmingtonpressonline.com

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