Last updated: July 17. 2013 6:11PM - 517 Views

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CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey today reminded West Virginians to be wary of messages they receive on social media websites that offer “free money” but then require verifying personal information.

The Attorney General’s Office recently has received a number of inquiries from citizens asking whether messages they have received on social media accounts are legitimate. In several instances, the messages came from accounts that appear to belong to friends or acquaintances and detail how the friend just received large amounts of money from a federal agent representing an empowerment program. The messages then encourage the reader to click on a link and add the agent as a friend.

The messages offer to provide anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 in cash as long as the reader agrees to pay a shipping fee of anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. The agent tells the reader to make the payment via a wire transfer service.

“These types of scams are very convincing because they start with a message that appears to come from a social media friend, and they involve conversations back and forth through ongoing messages,” Morrisey said. “The key thing people need to remember is that any offer that seems too good to be true typically is.”

Morrisey said consumers should always be wary of free money offers that come out of nowhere, as well as offers requiring recipients to pay an upfront fee to receive any of their so-called “winnings.” He said accounts that use pseudonyms instead of real names should be viewed as suspicious. He also reminded people to never share personal information, including date of birth, address, bank account numbers or Social Security numbers with people who call unsolicited over the phone or send messages in emails or via social media accounts.

“As technology changes, so do the ways scammers try to con people out of their money,” Morrisey said. “West Virginia citizens need to be vigilant and always wary of anything * even messages on social media * that offer windfalls of cash and prizes. And if you have doubts, always do a little homework: Call the agencies the person claims to represent or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808.”

If you believe you have been a victim of this type of scam or other scams, call the Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808.

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