Facebook fake poses as Prince Harry to con Austrian tradesman

Filed Under: Celebrities, Facebook, Featured

Prince Harry, image from Wikipedia under Creative CommonsA Facebook user posing as Britain's Prince Harry has conned an Austrian floor fitter out of thousands of euros.

According to a report in the Austrian Kurier newspaper, the fake prince offered the workman a one million pound contract to renovate the parquet floors at Buckingham Palace.

However, the tradesman was told he'd have to transfer a total of €27,500 (£23,000, $38,200) to the royal imposter in order for the deal to go ahead.

The victim sent an initial payment of €2,500 to a Lloyds Bank account. This was followed by a further payment of €22,000 as a 'security deposit' and then a 'final payment' of €3,000.

The latter two payments were made via Western Union, a money transfer service that is notoriously hard to track.

On Friday, having heard nothing from 'Prince Harry' for over two weeks, the workman contacted his local police in the district of Oberwart.

Investigations are continuing but the authorities in the province of Burgenland have reportedly told the floor fitter that the chances of seeing his money again are 'slim'.

This is not the first time that a trickster has used the name of Prince Harry to defraud victims.

In 2010 a fraudster posed as the prince, again on Facebook, and tricked over 20 women into sending money destined for an African orphans charity that had been created in memory of his mother, the late Princess Diana.

According to the Express, victims each sent up to $2,500 to someone using the name Raji Abass Agboola who had the funds deposited into accounts in Nigeria and Benin.

Given the rise in social media-related crime – the Metro reports a three-year 25% increase in crime involving Facebook and a whopping 390% uplift in cases where Twitter has played a role – it's worth paying attention to these tips for avoiding such scams:

  • Think carefully about who you are talking to – just because someone says they are who they are, doesn't mean they necessarily are.
  • Don't send money to someone you haven't met – this applies to potential business partners as well as down-on-their-luck 'friends' and potential romantic interests
  • If you think that you have been duped, report the matter as soon as you can to increase the chances of the perpetrator being caught before he/she cons someone else. If you're in the UK, you can report the crime to Action Fraud, the US the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or search online for how to report online fraud in your country.
  • Lastly, it's unlikely Prince Harry would personally contact someone to arrange a floor-fitting at Buckingham Palace. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Image of Prince Harry courtesy of Flickr user Glynn Lowe, licensed under creative commons.

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8 Responses to Facebook fake poses as Prince Harry to con Austrian tradesman

  1. Prince Harry · 533 days ago

    Dear Sophos,

    Can you please provide Security software for my dear Grandmother's corgis as they've received MacBooks for St Patricks Day to ensure they can keep up with social media? We'll pay you 1,000,000 groats for the subscription contract.

    Many thanks,

    (The real) Prince Hazza

    • Paul Ducklin · 533 days ago

      For attention: HRH Harold "Hazza" Wales

      Your Highness,

      Difficult as it is for me, a loyal vassalsubject, to write critical words to the Royal Household, I must urge you to be more careful of the privacy of your family.

      Everyone is supposed to be aware that "no-one knows you're a dog on the internet," yet you have just blown the cover of Her Majesty's companion animals by openly declaring them, in a public internet posting, to be of the canine sort.

      Also, didn't you mean that you would pay 1,000,000 *goats*, an animal much prized for its sturdiness and its non-allergenic milk?

      Finally, I am not sure that (the real) Prince Harry would sign himself "Prince Hazza." I think that formality would dictate the use of "HRH Hazza" at the least.

      With this in mind, I have reason to believe that you are an imposter.

      Tell you what. Make it 2,000,000 sheep and it's a deal.

      • Prince Harry · 532 days ago

        You are a cad and a bounder, Sir! Grandmamma will be hearing about this!!! Your cards are numbered peasant!

        On second thoughts...... 2,000,000 sheep? It's a done deal!

        Although, I thought your Mac AV was free? I've been "royally" duped!


        • Paul Ducklin · 532 days ago

          It's only free if you don't want to pay.

          PS. I presume you meant to write "pleasant." You're welcome.

  2. Chubasco · 533 days ago

    you just can't fix stupid!

  3. Andrew · 532 days ago

    Wow whatever next, don't these people realise they will get caught.

  4. Gil Favor · 532 days ago

    Maybe things work differently across the pond, but here in the U.S., the deposit usually goes the other way. No contractor I've ever used would tolerate a demand that he post a "security deposit" up front. He'd laugh and walk away.

    In fact, in my experience, any contractor of any quality requires the customer to pay a deposit up front as a show of good faith and proof of the customer's commitment to go ahead with the work. It costs money to gear up for a job, and even with a deposit the contractor is still taking a big risk.

    So, the demand for up-front money should have been enough to tip off the contractor that the deal was bogus. And that's in addition to the general boneheadedness of sending money to people you don't know, whose identity you haven't verified, and whom you've never met.

    • Mang · 526 days ago

      That's how it works this side of the pond too.
      But it appears some people are not quite as smart as you and I...
      And it doesn't take much to be as smart as me!

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About the author

Lee Munson is the founder of Security FAQs, a social media manager with BH Consulting and a blogger with a huge passion for information security.