AARP Eye Center
AARP Hawai`i and the AARP Fraud Watch Network are warning consumers about a variation of the “Do me a favor” scam that leads to social media accounts being hijacked and friends being targeted as the next victims.
It happened to Honolulu resident David Patterson, who is sharing his story to alert others about the scam.
Patterson said he received an Instagram message from a friend who asked for his help in becoming an online influencer ambassador. When Patterson replied to the message, he was asked to copy a message from Instagram and send it to them as verification that he had a real account.
What Patterson didn’t realize was that his friend’s account had been hijacked and the code he sent the scammers enabled them to take over his account. The scammers then began messaging Patterson’s friends asking them to make him an online influencer ambassador, trying to duplicate the scam with his friends.
When the scammers hijacked his account, they also locked Patterson out of Instagram and it took him about two weeks to regain control of his own account and stop the scammers from soliciting his friends.
“We call these ‘Do me a favor,’ scams because it’s a message or email from someone who appears to be a friend and they ask you to do something for them,” said Craig Gima, AARP Hawai`i Communications Director. “You’re less likely to be suspicious if you think it’s a friend or family member and that’s why the scam has been spreading.”
In another variation on the scam, people have reported getting emails or messages from their boss asking them to buy gift cards for a client and they end up losing the money they spent when they give the scammers the gift card information. Do me a favor scammers have also tried to get people to buy or invest in crypto currency or foreign exchange in an effort to steal money.
“I was shocked because this never happened to me before,” Patterson said. “I thought I was smarter than that. But when you think something won’t happen to you, that’s when some things can happen. I learned from this. Now I’m going to be even more careful.”
To prevent social media scams, the AARP Fraud Watch Network recommends getting two-factor authentication for your social media accounts. That way if a scammer is able to access your account, you have one more safeguard to keep them out.
- Listen to your instincts: if a request seems off, be suspicious even if it comes from a friend or family member.
- Look carefully at email addresses and friend requests to make sure they are accurate and not just a letter of two different.
- Call the person contacting you and ask them if the request is real.
- An urgent request to do something now before you get a chance to think is a red flag.
- Requests to buy gift cards for payment is another sign of a fraud. If you’re asked to give someone the information off a gift card you are giving them cash and you may not get your money back.
For more information on how to fight back against scams, visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network website at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork. If you want to report a suspected scam or have been a victim of a scam, you can call the AARP Fraud Watch Network helpline at 877-908-3360 and speak to a trained volunteer about next steps. To find out about scams being reported near you, visit the AARP Scam Tracker Map at https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/tracking-map/.