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CONSUMER ALERT

You can reach Facebook to report scammers

Q. Someone set up a duplicate Facebook page that appears with my name, and the same profile and cover photo as my real profile. Then they sent a message to my Facebook friends — a standard scam e-mail about claiming a $90,000 prize. I was able to contact the 32 people who accepted the friend request from the duplicate account.

There isn’t an effective way to report this to Facebook. Unless your “real” account becomes inaccessible, Facebook doesn’t let you report anything. And there are no phone numbers/e-mails for problems. Can you help? - PEGGY SHAW, HOPKINTON

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A. Fortunately, the folks at Facebook tell me your doppelganger is gone. Unfortunately, a lot of crooks prey on people via Facebook. Many of them are running phishing scams, where the bad guy pretends to be someone else to try to extract personal information or money. In this case, by posing as you, the crook was hoping that someone might suspend disbelief and send an e-mail to them, so they could get your friends’ personal information or have them wire money.

But lines like this: “I am so happy because i got $90,000.00 cash from Agent Paul Ward who works Federal Government and he is helping the people both young and old in the community for this coming Facebook Anniversary Lottery Winner” probably kept the scheme from working very well.

These sorts of scams have become so commonplace that Facebook has a page where users can report imposters. In addition, Facebook has an e-mail address, phish@fb.com, to report phishing attempts.

As maddening as it is, there is no phone number to call. “To best serve the billion people who use Facebook around the world, we’ve developed expansive resources to help people get the answers they’re looking for,” said Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman. “It’s a more effective approach in helping people resolve any issues. When they’re stuck, people do have the means to send us a message to get additional help. Doing this through online tools helps us process and address a much larger number of inquiries than we could through a call center.”

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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