Know How Your Friends and Family Actually Talk

Know How Your Friends and Family Actually Talk

Impostor scams have been an issue with social networks for years. Sometimes the perpetrators will hack into an existing account, change the password, and take over. Other times they will simply create a new account that clones an existing one, then send new friend requests to the real person’s friend list. Once they accomplish this task, they will either start posting spam links, disinformation or links to malicious websites, or begin using direct messaging features to run some variation of the old “I was mugged in London, please wire me some money” scheme. Facebook has traditionally been the choice for these scams, since the platform connects friends and family rather than strangers (more so than Twitter, Instagram or YouTube, at any rate).

Therefore it’s important to be able to recognize your connections’ online “voices.” Pay some attention to how your friends and family use capitalization, spelling, slang and grammar when they send you a message. If something appears unusual, it may be a sign that something isn’t right. It might be a good idea to contact them through some other method to verify the message.

An elderly relative sending you a message that starts with “sup” may indicate an impostor.

A friend who uses text abbreviations like a second language suddenly having an exquisite command of standard English spelling and grammar might also be suspect.

An ordinarily eloquent friend who suddenly has trouble with conjugation or verb tenses, or who begins a message with “Greetings!” could be a sign of a scammer.

In a lot of cases, especially on Facebook, you might be connected to a bunch of people you haven’t seen in decades and of whom you might not particularly be fond anymore, but there they are, and you’ve had them on “unfollow” since 2011 but you’re just too polite to unfriend them entirely (or you forgot about them). One of these people messaging you AT ALL could be fishy; doubly so if they’re speaking to you like their closest friend.

Here’s an example: I have this friend since sixth grade, all the way back in 19-nunya. We hardly ever talk on the actual phone, but we used email, then Facebook Messenger, then text messages for years. In some ways, we are simply continuing a slow-motion conversation that began sometime in 2002 and never really stopped. There are no greetings or closings, EVER. We started talking about guitars and food 20 years ago and it evolved naturally into a conversation about…well, guitars and food still, but also comedy and podcasts. If I got a Facebook Messenger message from him (already suspicious because we stopped using it years ago) and it began with him asking how I was doing, I would immediately know his account had been hacked. How we’re doing gets covered, without anybody having to ask.