A New Plymouth district councillor has come face to face with the dark side of social media after his online profile was cloned.
A Facebook hacker, masquerading as Craig McFarlane, sent numerous friend requests and appears to have claimed the three-term councillor was stranded in Bali and needed $25,000 to get him home.
McFarlane fired back alerting people that he was nowhere near the island paradise, he was stuck in Waitara.
"However, if you still feel the need to give me $25,000 please deliver it to me in person and we'll go and have a party," his post read.
McFarlane told the Taranaki Daily News that he was shocked at how easy someone could assume his identity.
He said the scammer had created a near identical account.
A few friends had fallen for the cloned profile but none had bought into the scam.
He said a friend had even chatted with the online impostor thinking it was him. "I even got a friend request from myself."
McFarlane said it was a wakeup call for all those who use the internet, especially parents who weren't tech-savvy.
"Every kid now has a phone that is hooked up to the internet."
The fraudulent profile had now been taken down.
Internet watchdog NetSafe said the "stranded traveller" scam was all too common and hard to stop.
Operations manager Lee Chisholm said those who received a similar message needed to do their research.
"Give them a call," she said.
"Get hold of them or someone who knows them really well before you part with any money."
Chisholm said another red flag was being asked to transfer money through Western Union or MoneyGram.
She said it was vital people beefed up their own internet security with strong, unique passwords.
Chisholm said it was also important people reported the scams to them so they could build a picture of how widespread the problem was and also to help stop others from falling into the same trap.
Scams can be reported confidentially on Netsafe's theorb.org.nz website.
Your operating system is up to date and being patched.
You have anti-virus software or a security suite on your machine. You have a firewall running.
You've updated "helper apps" like Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader and Java.
Your web browser is up to date.
If you aren't that confident dealing with technology, ask a friend or family member for help to ensure you don't lose anything you have stored on the computer.
- Taranaki Daily News
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