Published June 27, 2023 6:58 p.m. ET
Updated June 27, 2023 8:49 p.m. ET
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A local woman is warning others after she was victimized by multiple scammers while using Facebook, and one expert said this new scam can have long-reaching consequences for victims, while perpetrators are unlikely to face any.
Cheylyn Nemeth said it started when she got a Facebook message from a trusted friend.
“Needed a favour on Facebook, so I asked what the favour was, and they asked me, they need a friend to give them a code in order to get back into their Facebook account,” she told CTV News Edmonton on Tuesday.
“Said it was in my email and to go into my email and check it. I wasn’t thinking anything of it, got the code and gave it.”
When her “friend” also asked for the email address associated with her account, Nemeth said she became suspicious.
“I was putting two and two together, and it was like, ‘No, this is not her, shut it down right now.’ Too late.”
The next morning when Nemeth opened her phone, she had lost access to her Facebook account.
“I checked my email and there’s a whole bunch of emails saying that someone added a phone number and deleted a phone number and added an email and deleted an email and changed the password.”
Because the scammer had changed her recovery email address and phone number, Nemeth had no way to get a new password for her account.
She said she panicked and started looking for a way to contact Facebook.
After texting with a different friend, she was sent a phone number to call to recover her account.
“The paranoia was unbelievable in the moment,” she said. “So I’m phoning away, and the whole conversation was so bad. When I think back over the conversation now, right when that person answered the phone, it was not Facebook, and I just continued to get scammed like so bad.”
Nemeth said the male on the other end of the phone had her download a screen-sharing app so he could see her phone screen.
“He’s telling me like my entire phone is compromised, all my accounts are compromised, so now he wants to help me look through my accounts and fix them.”
The scammer had Nemeth open Amazon and attempt to purchase multiple gift cards.
“Just buy gift card after gift card after gift card. And I’m like, ‘What is this doing?’”
After attempting to buy several gift cards, Nemeth said Amazon bumped her out of her account.
She later learned the company had flagged the activity as fraudulent immediately and is now investigating.
After the attempts to purchase Amazon gift cards were unsuccessful, the scammer had Nemeth log into her BMO banking account and send him an e-transfer.
“Eventually he did talk me into doing it.”
“He wanted me to send $999 and one cent. I sent it.”
At that point, Nemeth said she hit her breaking point. She hung up on the scammer, and tried to contact BMO.
“As I’m trying to call them, he kept calling and calling and calling and I couldn’t even enter my card number properly.”
“I got BMO on the phone and I started bawling, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. Stop this e-transfer,’” she said.
“She didn’t ask me any questions, just went into my account, cancelled the e-transfer, even though it was an automatic deposit, she was able to cancel it immediately, and she came back and was like, ‘OK, let,s talk about what’s going on.’”
Nemeth said BMO has also opened an investigation into the case.
She has been refunded her money, but says the Facebook account that she’s had for more than a decade is lost forever.
“I feel so violated. I feel like somebody messed with my head,” she said.
“And then to top it all off, Facebook has no customer support system. That entire platform is being run by a computer.”
‘YOU’VE GOT TO PROTECT IT’
A local cyber expert says giving anyone access to any of your digital accounts or the codes needed to access them can make you a target for all kinds of attacks.
“The latest scam seems to be people trying to send you messages to get you to give up that precious code,” said University of Calgary professor Tom Keenan.
“The problem is, when people get into your Facebook account, they can learn lots about you. You might have stuff in there that could actually lead to your bank account.”
Keenan says the codes, also known as two-factor authentication, are used on many digital platforms.
“It’s a scam that somebody figured out that’s circulating around the world. It’s a very easy scam to do, and there’s probably very little risk that anybody is going to get caught or arrested.”
Keenan suggests keeping a tight leash on your social media profiles to avoid being the target of a scammer.
“If you’re a big Facebook user, if it’s a big part of your life, if you’re talking to your grandkids on Facebook messenger all the time, you got to put some work in. You’ve got to protect it. Which means check your privacy settings, check your list of friends, and trim them down.”
“If it sounds suspicious, if they mention Amazon gift cards or anything like that, it’s probably a scam, get right out of there.”
Keenan says if you’re dealing with a bank or other company that does have a customer service phone number, call them directly instead of dealing with them on an incoming call or through social media.
He also advises against posting about your upcoming vacations, or information about your children’s school or schedule.
“There are serious, real world consequences to the things we post on Facebook.”
“Always err on the side of thinking, ‘Could somebody possibly make use of this information?’”
Nemeth said the experience has soured her on Facebook, and social media.
She said she chose to speak out in hopes of preventing anyone else from going through a similar experience.
“It’s super scary, it’s super violating. It’s probably the most uncomfortable I have ever felt in my life, so I definitely wouldn’t want anybody to be in that position.”
“Knowing what I know now, I think I’m going to just delete it completely from my phone and be done.”
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson
Cheylyn Nemeth looks at her cell phone while speaking to CTV News Edmonton on June 27, 2023.