CERT: Beware of social media Samaritans

The Principal Information Security Engineer of the Computer Emergency Readiness Team Co-ordination Centre (CERT|CC), Roshan Chandragupta said they had received complaints of several modern methods of cheating or financial scams via Facebook.

He said several incidents had been reported about social media users requesting gullible victims to pay customs duties for the release of gifts sent to them.

“Many use websites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber to connect with ‘friends’ most of whom were not known to them,” Mr. Chandragupta said and added that some local fake Facebook account holders pretend to be foreigners. “They send friend requests to other account holders in an attempt to build some kind of rapport and chat, share images and even sent wishes and gifts to these ‘friends’ with whom they share pain, sorrow and happiness and give advice as well. Shortly thereafter these criminals send boxes containing presents such as electrical items, jewellery saying that some money has been placed in the box to pay Customs clearance fees if necessary,” he said.

Mr. Chandragupta said an SMS saying the Customs Department has received a parcel and would be released after paying its duties and send a local bank account number to pay the tax.

He said according to some complaints, the victims had credited the accounts with Rs.20,000, Rs.30,000, Rs.40,000 and Rs.80,000.

Mr. Chandragupta said after the tax is paid the victim receives a call from a person claiming to be a Customs officer, saying the parcel contains undeclared foreign currency, which is not allowed in parcels and as such that they have been confiscated.

Mr. Chandragupta said no record had been identified in complaints as making such payments after the parcels seized by the Customs.

He requested Facebook users to add limited number of known friends, not to upload confident personnel details and not to accept friend requests by unknown persons and also not to chat with them.

He also requested users to ignore if such messages were received and to cross-check the received customs declaration bill images with the Customs Department to check whether it is genuine.

“Check the international parcel delivery agents’ availability with the received delivery agents’ images,” he said.

“After several investigations the CERT found out the Facebook cheaters and the bogus Custom officers were from Sri Lanka.

“The delivery officer was also a local person and he used to speak in English accent as foreigner,” he said.

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