Today I got a friend request from someone I knew online. I thought I’d friended her on Facebook years ago, but I couldn’t remember. I don’t see everyone I’m friends with since Facebook chooses what shows up in my newsfeed, and besides, I’d received a couple of other requests from people I was friends with, but who were separating out their personal connections from their author connections, so it seemed normal to me.
I accepted the friend request, and almost immediately got a message from her. “Hello.” Nothing else just the one word.
I responded, “Hi. I didn’t know you weren’t on facebook. Welcome!”
I got the gist at one glance — resending me a friend request, trojan virus — and didn’t pay particular attention to the construction of the message other than to wonder if she were using her phone to respond and didn’t bother to be grammatical. So I wrote back, “No problem – about sending me a request that is. A virus and having to start over are big problems. I’m sorry. How are you doing? No new physical ailments I hope.”
I unfriended the original her since Facebook has a cap on the number of friends you can have, and there is no point in padding one’s friend numbers with defunct accounts. Then I got this message from the new account:
She: Am good and very much happy now. Do you know Agentofficer Adeniyi morgan?
I started to feel a bit uneasy. This friend would never have said she was happy now. Not that I ever knew her to be either happy or unhappy, but she would simply not have used the word in such a way. She would have offered me a bit of wisdom, would have made a philosophical remark, would have mentioned specifically how she was doing, or would have asked about how I was doing after the death of my father. A bit hesitantly, I typed, “No don’t know that person. I’m so glad you’re happy.”
She: Agentofficer Adeniyi morgan? Who work for fedgov to help and support the young and old retired people, in the community department of compensation they are really helping do you got yours from him?
Now I knew something was wrong. This friend is an educated, literate woman, who writes spectacular historical novels, and she would never be so slipshod. Besides, the construction sounded similar to the spam messages I get on my blog as if the translation program the person used was faulty. So I wrote, “Email me, okay?” And then I googled Agentofficer Adeniyi morgan, found out the scoop, emailed my friend and told her what was going on. But she already knew.
I got one final fake message: “Really but i did tallk to him, because when the ups man came to deliver mine for me i did saw your name on the list of those that are going to get it too thats why am telling you if you have got yours from them?”
Apparently, this Agentofficer Adeniyi morgan or whoever is using that name, uses photos from someone’s profile (I thought he/she/it was cloning the account, but apparently it’s simpler than than that), sends friend requests to that person’s friends to try to scam money out of them. This person is offering $150,000 if you make a tax payment of $1000, and is targeting older people both online via Facebook and even by phone. So, beware of Agentofficer Adeniyi morgan or anyone offering you such an improbable deal.
This sort of scam my friend and I got caught up in is called catfishing after the 2010 documentary Catfish about an online romance that turned out to be something other than it was purported to be. Predators use catfishing as a way to trick the unsuspecting into romantic relationships, and as you can see, scammers use it as a means of trying to get money.
Actually, only the name catfish is new, the schemes and scams are old.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.