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(ARA) – Scam artists are always changing their schemes in an effort to trick consumers into handing over money or personal information. One of the latest scams involves hacking into social networking sites and then targeting specific friends in the victim’s account.

For example, a scam artist will gain access to “Susan’s” Facebook account. The scammer will send an e-mail message to all of her friends pretending to be Susan and claiming to have been mugged, injured or arrested in a foreign country, and in need of some cash immediately. But in reality, Susan is completely unaware that this message was sent out because she did not send it.

Believing that this message is from Susan, her friends want to help and immediately follow her instructions to wire money through a money transfer service like Western Union. Later they discover that they sent money to a scam artist.

The following are some tips from Western Union to help you avoid becoming a victim of these “emergency” scams through which fraudsters prey on people’s emotions:

  • If you receive an e-mail or phone call claiming a friend or family member needs cash, take a step back and attempt to independently verify the need. Call the person on their phone, or call a mutual friend and find out if they are aware of the situation.
  • Let your friend or family member know that you have received a call or e-mail from them claiming they need help. If it turns out there isn’t an emergency situation happening, they will need to report the case to local police and the administrators of their social networking site. Also advise them to change their passwords and install or update an anti-virus and anti-spyware program to help protect their computer from hackers.
  • If you did send a money transfer through Western Union, and realize that it was a scam, immediately contact the company at (800) 448-1492. If the transaction has not been picked up, it will be refunded to you. Contact the police if the money has been picked up and file a report about the scam.
  • Be aware of questionable situations. Scam scenarios can evolve quickly and the way scammers contact victims changes daily. Another scam similar to the social networking scheme that targets victims’ emotional reactions involves phone calls from people pretending to be family members or authority figures who claim to be in need of money for medical assistance or even bail.

Regardless of whether you are contacted online or through some other means, be suspicious of requests to send money to “help a friend or family member out” unless you can absolutely verify the information you’ve been given.

For more information on other scams or for more tips on how to protect yourself from scams, visit

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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