How Barry foiled the scammers, and you can too

Stay safe online: Thumbs-down to that friendly wave

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Barrie Virtue waved back to his friend Jim on Messenger. Guess what happened next?


HAVE YOU ever received a "wave" from a friend on Messenger and then started to wonder if it really was your friend? Barrie Virtue did - and, thanks to some terrible wording and an inquiring mind, he escaped being scammed.

He takes up the story...

It started with one of those cartoon-like hand-weaving things on Facebook Messenger.

"Jim Wycliff waved at you," it said. "Wave back at him."

I have known Jim (not his real name) for a very long time, so I did wave back.

Then he sent me a message: "How are you doing mate?"

"I'm doing well mate," I said, and added a few lines of family news.

"Good to hear back from you mate," Jim wrote. "I am doing good also. Actually I was about to write to you when your message pop up. Have you heard the good news?"

"?" I wrote.

"Did you heard about the good news on Ozlotto in conjunction with Facebook Randomly pick up of profiles as the winners in in the ongoing giveaway to helps improve life's, properties and its environments?"

(These are Jim's words as he sent them.)

Jim's grammar and spelling seems to have become pretty slipshod, I thought. Still we are all getting on a bit.

He went on: "Oh, I thought you heard about it all. I won the sum of $90,000 from them, the magical thing is that I saw your name and your picture on there winners list when they came to deliver my winning money at my doorstep. You need to swift into actions. I bet, it will be useful to you. I think you need to contact the agent and ask if your name is still on there winners list. I am sure you have won something too...should I get you the agent link?"

I should have woken up before things got to this point. Jim is a clergyman, married to a relation of my wife, and I felt puzzled about how much his spelling (if it was him) had slipped.

Anyway, "Yes if you could Jim. Thank you," I wrote.

Back came a link from Jim. "Click on the link," he said. "It will refer you to the agent's page. Message her and ask her to help you confirm if your name still appear on there winners list, I am sure you have won something too."

By this stage I was getting quite worried about what might be going on, because it didn't sound like Jim at all.

He sent another message: "Are you able to get to the agent page?"

By now I was feeling very uneasy. If it was Jim I was talking to I didn't want to offend him by suggesting that I had doubts about what he was telling me.

So I replied: "Thanks for sending this Jim. I find myself on the horns of a dilemma, between the devil and the deep blue sea, and similar uncomfortable predicaments. Our two daughters are strongly urging me not to click on the link because they are worried that it could involve a scam. I understand their concern because millions of people have been caught in scams.

"But I am sure you would not have told me about this matter if you had any doubts about it. Is there anything you can tell me that I could pass on to the girls (middle-aged women now) to reassure them? Do you have a phone number for the agent? I am not sure what I will do but I am very grateful to you. By the way, I received a text the other day telling me I had won 6.5 million pounds. Other people received the same message."

Jim replied: "I perfectly do understand you. We have gone a long way, you should know that I will never lure or introduce you to something that is not real, I know it will be useful to you, that is why I told you. It is real and legitimate...I was so shocked when they appear at my doorstep."

After more advice from our daughters and a phone call to Jim (which I should have made earlier) in which he assured me he had not been sending me messages, I told the person who had hacked Jim's Facebook page and had been impersonating him what he could do, using a word I had never used and do not expect to use in the future.

This is the advice our daughters gave me: never reply to a message that starts with a wave and never accept a friend request from someone with whom you are already a friend. It is not them.

The federal government's stay smart online website has more details about this scam HERE

Read more: Scammers prey on older Australians

Read more: NBN Co warns of a rise in scam activity