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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Big 'win' became $5000 loss: An Abney Associates Tech Blog

RIP OFF: ‘‘Micheal Reagan’’ purported to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States.

A Christchurch woman lost $5000 in a scam after hackers cloned her best friend's Facebook account.

Maria, not her real name, was last week convinced to send the money - her only savings - by "Halbert Colb" after an online conversation with scammers posing as Kay Snee.

INTERNET SCAM: Maria* in Christchurch was duped out of $5000
 in an internet scam involving a clone of her best friend’s Facebook profile.

Instead, hackers, likely to be from overseas, had cloned Snee's profile, re-friended Maria, in her 70s, and started chatting to her.

The scammers, posing as her trusted friend, convinced Maria she had won $500,000 in a Facebook lottery. They said she would receive it after paying a $5000 deposit to a man in the United States.

Internet watchdog NetSafe has since issued a warning about the increasing number of internet scams in Christchurch, where many are still vulnerable after the city's earthquake.

NetSafe digital project manager Chris Hails said one scam, where cold-callers claimed to be from Microsoft, had been around for years "but we have certainly seen a pattern of calling targeting Christchurch".

Research showed those already in difficult or vulnerable positions especially financially, were more likely to fall victim to scams, he said.

The cloned profile Facebook scam to which Maria fell victim was new to New Zealand, but NetSafe had received reports of six similar incidents in New Zealand in the past couple of months.

One victim was fleeced of $1000, and in Maria's case, $5000 was "a big sum of cash to lose".

"These social networks are built on the basis of trusted friendships in the offline world and as far as [Maria] was concerned she had received a genuine message from Kay's account and took it to be truthful," Hails said.

"If you are accepting friend requests you need to be taking steps to make sure that it really is the friend that your are talking to."

Maria was too embarrassed to be identified by The Press, but wanted to share her story to prevent it happening to anyone else.

"My poor husband. He has been amazing . . . I was just so gullible," she said.

Snee, in her 50s, believes hackers got access to her account when she clicked on a Facebook video link on her mobile phone.

NetSafe's helpline is 0508 NETSAFE and people can also report incidents online via


A "gutted" Maria* received a Facebook message from a "very, very close friend" informing her she had just won half a million dollars in an online lottery.

A person calling herself Kay Snee told Maria to get in touch with a man called "Halbert Colb" on Facebook.
She was instructed to pay $5000 by Western Union - a 1 per cent commission on her $500,000 prizemoney - before she could get her prize money.

She deposited the money via eftpos at post shops in New Brighton, Parklands and in Hills Rd.
The next day she heard from "Micheal Reagan", purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States.

Reagan said Maria's name was on an IRS certificate and "they needed $8950 for tax on the winnings".
That night, Maria finally got in touch with her friend, who had just returned from a week-long holiday and was shocked.

(*Maria is not her real name)


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