KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A pair of Kalamazoo County residents were duped by hackers using artificial video technology in a scheme popping up on Facebook's Messenger app.
A Kalamazoo County man, who didn't want to be identified for privacy reasons, received a Facebook Messenger video call from a friend, who looked exactly like her, he said.
The person urgently requested $200 on Cash App, according to the man.
He believed his Facebook account was taken over by hackers when dozens of Facebook friends received video calls for money from his profile this past weekend.
One of the people that received his call was a Kalamazoo County woman we agreed to identified as Ruth.
She received a Facebook message from what she thought was her friend around 6:30 a.m. Sunday.
"I need your help. I need $200 urgently. I'll pay you back with additional fees," according to the Facebook message.
Ruth said she wanted to help her friend and agreed to exchange messages.
"He seemed somewhat urgent and that had me concerned," Ruth said.
She received a 18-second video call where she saw the man's face during the Facebook Messenger video call, she said.
"I saw his lips moving and saw his face, and it was definitely him. I couldn't hear anything," Ruth said.
Ruth figured out the hackers were behind the messages when she sent $200 to the man's Cash App account under his phone number, not to a username hackers provided, she said.
"He said no, take it back, it's not me," Ruth said.
Facebook has removed large numbers of impersonating and scam accounts on a consistent basis, according to a Meta spokesperson.
" We strongly encourage people to be wary of unexpected, unusual messages and calls from existing contacts and report suspicious messages and friend requests to Meta right away so we can take action," a Meta spokesperson said in a statement.
Meta released the following tips for resources to help Facebook users avoid being scammed:
The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan recommends reporting any suspicious activity to the BBB and never trust message requests for money over social media messaging apps.
Reports of cyber attacks using the face- and voice-altering technology jumped 13% last year, according to VMware's annual Global Incident Response Threat Report, released in August.
The Kalamazoo County incident is a reminder for people not take everything at face value, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said.
The sheriff's office recommended anyone who falls victim should report it to local law enforcement, who can link up with state and federal agencies to best help.
"Ultimately there is so many of these crimes and now one good place to good to go," Fuller said.
Fuller's department has investigated other scams that include fake Facebook profiles claiming people won the lottery and ask to provide personal information, such as physical address or bank details.
Law enforcement officials recommend Facebook and social media users double check security settings.
"I was actually suspicious before that, but keep going back to the fact I saw his face, his lips move. This is a friend I've had for years," Ruth said.
We reached out to the Michigan Attorney General's Office but have not heard back.
Full statement from Meta, according to a company spokesperson:
“It’s unfortunate when people are impacted by scams like this where scammers pose as a legitimate contact asking for money. We strongly encourage people to be wary of unexpected, unusual messages and calls from existing contacts and report suspicious messages and friend requests to Meta right away so we can take action. We also recommend people enable two-factor authentication or log-in alerts to get notifications if someone else tries to log into their account,