Do you really think Mark Zuckberg is going to personally message you in the middle of the night to tell you that you’ve won $750,000 in a Facebook lottery?
No? Well, you read security blogs, so let’s instead turn our attention to people who don’t, because they’re the juicy prey that hundreds of fake Zucks and fake Sheryl Sandbergs are targeting.
Not including fan pages and satire accounts—which are OK with Facebook policies—the New York Times has found 205 accounts impersonating Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg on Facebook and Instagram.
At least 51 of the impostor accounts the newspaper spotted, including 43 on Instagram, were lottery scams.
Cut some slack for those who fell for one of the frauds. One victim, retired forklift driver and Army veteran Gary Bernhardt, asked us to consider: Is it that hard to believe that Zuck himself would message you?
After all, this is the hands-on guy who last year set himself a challenge to visit all the US states he’s never been to. And, during the tour, to work on a car assembly line, hang out with a fireman in Indiana, feed a calf, drive a tractor, have lunch with farmers, and speak with recovering opioid addicts.
Bernhardt told the Times that he was up until dawn, trading messages with whoever was pretending to be the young billionaire. The faux Zuck told him that in order to get at his winnings, he’d first need to send in $200 in iTunes gift cards.
Bernhardt picked up some gift cards at a gas station and sent the redemption codes to the scammer’s account. That was in November 2017. By January, he still didn’t have his lottery winnings, but the imposter had bled him for another $1310. He told the Times that the money represented about a third of his Social Security checks over three months.
The Times claims that these imposter accounts are proliferating, in spite of Facebook groups that track scams and complaints about imposter accounts that date back to 2010. You can see sample Facebook lottery hoaxes on Hoax Slayer and other debunking sites.
Stealing a photo of a famous CEO or COO or, really, anybody who has photos online is plenty easy. So is cooking up a variation on the names of the sheep whose skins the wolves put on.
The Times found accounts for many variations on the name “Mark Elliot.” (Zuck’s middle name is Elliot.) Ditto for Sandberg, or, as the crooks like to call her and hope you’ll swallow, Sherryl Sandbarg, Sherryl Sandbeerg or similar name-twists.
Times reporter Jack Nicas came up with these fake accounts, among many others, after Facebook recently said that up to 3%—or 60 million—of its accounts are fake:
Let's discuss Facebook's issue with fake accounts...— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) April 25, 2018
After Facebook recently said that up to 3% of its accounts are fake, I wondered how to show that. So, I looked for Mark Zuckerberg impostors... and I found a bunch. Sheryl Sandbergs, too. pic.twitter.com/UHeIYO2y5X
The Times reported its findings to Facebook. A day later, the company took down all 96 fake Zuckerberg and Sandberg accounts. All but one of the 109 Instagram fake accounts were left up, but they too came down after the Times published its report.
Facebook spokesman Pete Voss thanked the newspaper for its report, though he couldn’t explain why Facebook hadn’t spotted scam accounts made to look like its top executives, including some that were up for more than eight years.
It’s not easy. We want to get better.
The real photos and the twisted names all give the come-ons an air of authenticity if you don’t look closely, or if you’re one of the demographics the fraudsters target. Namely, after interviewing a half dozen recent victims, the Times found that the scams are working with older, less educated and low-income people.
The imposters’ believability is bolstered by networks of other sham accounts posing as “Facebook claim agents”, a title made to make it sound as if, sure, there really is such a thing as a Facebook lottery.
The Times talked to Robin Alexander van der Kieft, who manages several Facebook groups that track the scams. He said that the fake accounts, several of which he’s traced to Nigeria and Ghana via IP address, share their scam victories with each other.
Facebook has admitted that all these fake accounts are a problem. During the recent testimony he gave to the Senate, Zuckerberg told Sen. Dianne Feinstein that his team would have to get back to her about “tens of thousands of fake accounts” and whether they could be “specifically” attributed back to Russian intelligence.
In a January post on Facebook, Zuckerberg said that the company had nearly doubled the number of humans who review content for all sorts of abuse, including impersonation.
The fleeced people the Times talked to said that it’s tough to figure out how to report the scams, and once they do, Facebook has been sluggish in responding.
Still, if you’re targeted, report it. And please don’t laugh at people who get taken for a ride. The scams are causing serious financial and physical distress.
Facebook might well be slow to untangle the problem of imposter accounts, but it will never be able to fix what it doesn’t know about.
26 comments on “No, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t messaging you about winning a Facebook lottery”
Nowthey are a Sandra Williams saying she’s CEO of of Facebook an I was the winner of the 650,000in the Facebook lottery.a and they are trying to get over 200$from me to get my winnings.
I was just contacted on WhatsApp app with the 707 area code number saying that it was Mark Zuckerberg and that I had won 5 million dollars in a random Facebook lottery,and a car, and that all I had to do was send $675 for the FedEx delivery fee.. I even got a video chat from Mark Zuckerberg..Of course I couldn’t hear what he was saying, so I knew it was photoshopped …I even called this guy on his SCAM.. he kept saying he believed in God…and could not lie…over and over claimed this was REAL.. I even saw a videos and messages from 6 people who thanked Mark for their winning and saw the debit cards and certificate that they won… ONE guy even won money and two cars… imagine that… The big convincing part was this guy could not spell complete sentences or the right words..
My husband is going through the same thing now! I am fighting he already gave 500 in amazon gift cards and now they wany 800 more. so they can deliver a crate of 5 mil in cash plus 3 vehicles! I keep telling my husband its a scam but they keep reeling him back in.
I have been advised in the last few weeks by Elliot Mark Zuckerberg I have won one million dollars In The Facebook Lottery Program. And also being told by Hillary Scott Morgan of Tax Clearance Certificate solutions.
Robert Roy White of FedEx Courier Service in DC
And Paul Tammy Gail of The International Road Federation of DC, I’m being bugged on a daily basses on Facebook that my is really to be delivered as soon as sent $1650 for FedEx to deliver my package.
Yup same here, told won 500.000 in the last 8 weeks, by 4 Facebook agents that I won huge from fb lottery. They ask for 100$ to unlock win then 400-600 $ to pick up/deliver winnings by fedex/hangout account. I gave half to FedEx 200$ for delivery in a month. Mark Zucherburg’s imposter with fb sign on WhatsApp contact me from the start showing his badge and vid of winnings. He said he wanted to secure fb, Instagram asking for password to accounts. He was so convincing. I have lost 200+$ and sent links to imposter of Mark Zucherburg, Sherl Sanberg, and FedEx office of hoax. Not been contacted yet. Glad I found out today so I don’t have to pay more. Am sorry to those who got stung big, and hope more people don’t get stung, but they will. Its in our nature to feel good about being lucky.
I was contacted today while someone was pretending to be Mark Zuckerberg on my phone, was even sent a picture of his drivers license. He asked me to come to California to pick up the prize money. Then said it would be delivered be Federal Express Courier along with papers for me to sign. I told him I looked it up and there is no such giveaway. Even sent pictures of man with caption Facebook online Lottery Promo 2018 Why do they want my address etc. What good will that do them?
Exact same story I got..
I’ve been getting messages from a person claiming to be mark Zuckerberg and a guy claiming to be a agent with fbi about winnings on a Facebook board organization and FedEx company
Yes I’ve been harassed for days saying I’m facebook winner but they need 600.00
That’s why this sort of scam is known colloquially as AFF, short for “advance fee fraud”. You have to pay in a little bit to grease the wheels – think of it as a “handling fee” – for example to process a court document, to pay a bribe, to acquire a needed certificate. Then you’re in. Next there’s another fee, maybe another bribe, a bit bigger; then one of your “business partners” needs a plane fare to attend the signing of the deal; then there are taxes…
…so there are lot of “advance fees”, followed by nothing.
I have been notified from 4 different marks saying I won 500.000 dollars I played with them all telling them that I was not paying anything until it gets here and they would tell me they would help never got anything the last one said the money was on atm cards and I had to pay for the activation fee of 300 dollars I told him I was not paying anything to keep it .I wonder if he is going to text me next week and say I won again if it was all true I would be a millionaire
This is happening far too often in the new century. The internet is a good invention but unfortunately is frequently abused. Mark Zuckerberg is a multi billionaire and little people like us are of no consequence. Little people who have no money are the primary target. Zuckerberg needs to confront this problem!
If fb cannot control its own company they should be censured by the us gov and fined.or forced to close up shop not stopping a crime is a crime itself
I had Mark Zuckerberg contact me last night via Hangout. Saying l won a car Toyota even send me a picture with facebook no plates & 2 million $, Picture’s of other winners collecting there FedX packages & people advertising They are winners & it’s real. They want me to buy Google play cards & Do the whole sending procedure valued at 450.00 in order to have my prize delivered. This isn’t fair. I still have all the messages. I was 1 of 5 lucky FB users to win, He assured me it happens ever 3 yrs. They/He has my address, Mobile no, Email.
I have received a message on Hangouts from Mark Elliott Zuckerberg. It shows his ID and driver’s license. It says i have won 5 million dollars in a special lottery. Problem and why I know it isn’t real is because he spelled his name wrong. Then he spelled the United States of America wrong.He wrote united state.Wow 5 million from Mark. Awesome – but not real.
My name is Carlos Stewart. I been received all kinds of people saying that they are from Facebook and that they are my winnings agent. I don’t know what to do
I just received an email from Zuccaberg , asking why I haven’t cashing in my Facebook lottery of $500,000.00
just received a friend request from someone who used the name, Nancy Richie claiming to be the claim agent at facebook and wondering if I have been contacted by a agent regarding my winnings. this is a scam, there is a Nancy Richie, but I think she was hacked, as when I looked on her facebook page, a friend of hers mentioned this to her.
I was notified about winning 250.000.00 just this month and wanted me to pay 1000.00 to get the money.
Funny that I’ve had 4/5 in the last month and two of them was today
I was just contacted on Instagram by Mark Elliot Zuckerberg telling me that I won a million dollars. I didn’t give the person a chance to discuss how I would get the money, I told them that I am busy. Ughhh
I got this message this year i was one of the 20 picked who won 500,000 from Facebook agent Linda Evelyn and showed my name and the Certificate and they will bring it I thought why now tell me it would have been a suprize you wanted to see on their face when you give it to them without them knowing they won something right? I just knew right off thanks Linda you saved the last laugh for me this time yours truly Steve Ortiz lets make at least a million next time ok
Facebook’s “Mark Zuckerberg” has called my friend who is on SSI and dying of cancer. Has told this man that he has “won” $20 million dollars, and a Land Criuser. They mailed him, to his actual house, in Mississippi, a pre paid American Express card which is supposed to be loaded with the money tomorrow. What is wrong with these horrible people that they can play sick mind games with anyone, much less a dying man? He is older, mentally impaired, and I am horribly distraught. There should be a special place in hell, for people who take advantage of good folks like this. Thank you.
Why doesn’t the FBI track these people down and have them arrested? I toohavebeen contacted saying I hadwon a Facebook lottery They even sent a video of a office where a box was sitting on what.look like a scale and claimed that was my prize ready to be shipped as soon as Isent$70 dollars for the delivery fee. I didn’t nor intend to send them any money.
I was contacted that I had won &600,000 in the Zuckerberg lottery!! I was taken back & really want to believe it but I did my homework & realized what a scam it was. I’m an 83 yr. old widow on a limited income!! I’m sure they prey on anyone.