Could Facebook’s Messenger Payments Be Used For Online Dating Fraud?

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With Facebook recently adding payments between friends to Messenger, could this create a problem with regards to fraud and scammers?

The money-sending system lets users click a $ sign inside a chat with a Facebook friend.

They then enter an amount, and click send in the top right to transfer the money.

Before doing this, users must add a Visa or MasterCard debit card to their Facebook account.

Once this is done, you can also create a PIN to give additional security the next time you send money.

Those using iOS can use TouchID as an added security level.

When money is sent, it is transferred right away, although it may take one to three business days for the money to become available, depending on your bank.

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Beyond the obvious upside of the feature allowing quick, useful payments between friends, the system does have potential risks with regards to scammers and fraud.

Some scammers use third parties like Facebook to make contact with potential victims, or move them over to such networks after making contact on a dating site.

This means that payment systems on huge social networks such as Facebook could open up a whole new way for scammers to defraud people out of money.

We spoke to Dan Winchester, the co-founder of Scamalytics, about the problems that Facebook’s new payment system could create in this area. 

Winchester referenced research performed on his site FreeDating.co.uk, which found that 3.3% of scammer messages contained the word “facebook”.

“When you look into the content of these messages, you see scammers moving targets away from the dating site and onto Facebook, where they add each other as friends and continue the dialogue. These scammers are using the same fake photos and stories on Facebook that they use on dating sites,” he said.

And although Facebook describe their payment system as giving people “a more convenient and secure way to send or receive money between friends”, he noted that scammers will often already be friends – by Facebook’s usual definition – with the target.

“So clearly this is going to be incredibly attractive to the scammer – giving them everything they need in one platform to both groom the target and execute the scam right through to payment,” he said.

With this comes another problem – what help will Facebook give when one of their users has transferred money to a Facebook friend who turned out to be a scammer?

Winchester said: “According to Scam Survivors, sextortion scammers are using Paypal and Amazon Gift Vouchers as payment methods, in which case mainstream tech companies are already enabling scammers to execute financial transactions.

“Facebook’s existing position as a messaging platform used by scammers to groom targets – together with the announcement that it is moving into friend-to-friend payments – has to be a concern.”

In the blog post explaining the new feature, Facebook said they will have a team of anti-fraud specialists to monitor for suspicious purchase activity, to help keep accounts safe.

Read the Facebook blog post here