/ Money

Beware Facebook ‘friends’ requesting cash

Had a friend or relative get in touch out of the blue asking for money? Things might not be all they seem. Here’s why you should stay vigilant.

Scammers are gaining access to email and social media accounts to try to trick friends and contacts into sending them money this Christmas.

Accessing an account and pretending to be its owner is a common tactic used to con people out of money. We saw similar techniques used earlier this year on Facebook, where accounts were being cloned.

Fraudsters are now using these methods to take advantage of the generosity of relatives and friends at this time of year.

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of having strong passwords in place to protect your accounts from unauthorised access.

Christmas cons

Last week, Gill got in touch to tell us about a Facebook message from her student granddaughter Cara, asking for her Christmas money early.

The message said that her laptop had died and she needed money towards a new one as soon as possible, so she could complete her coursework. Inevitably, Gill was asked to transfer the money to a bank account. 

‘I didn’t question it at all,’ she said. ‘But my husband and I decided we would buy her a laptop and have it delivered to her at her university halls as a surprise. 

‘I called my daughter [Cara’s mum] to see if we could all pitch in to buy a new one together, but she knew nothing about a broken laptop.’

It turned out Cara’s Facebook account had been hijacked by scammers.

Read what Facebook is doing to prevent scams on its platform

They found out that Gill was her grandmother and tried to use the information they had from Cara’s profile to trick her into sending them money.

‘With hindsight, it was unusual because Cara has never asked us for money before. But I thought she must be really desperate’, Gill told us.

Gift cards on scammers’ wish lists

A Which? member, who we’ll refer to as ‘Beth’, also told us she was recently abroad on holiday when she received an email that appeared to be from a close friend. 

She was asking to borrow £200 to help her pay for Christmas. The friend gave instructions for the money to be sent as an Amazon gift card to a different email account.

Beth sent the voucher, but a few weeks later she discovered criminals had accessed her friend’s email account and had pretended to be her.

They had made similar requests to other friends and family who were on the email account contact’s list.

Beth hasn’t been able to get her money back because she paid for the gift card before sending it to a third party. There is currently no protection for consumers in this case.

Although she paid for the voucher on her credit card, she isn’t protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act because technically, she received what she paid for.

Check before you send

We don’t want to unnecessarily worry you that your friends aren’t always who you think they are.

But if a relative or friend asks you for money over text message, email or through a messaging app, and it’s out of the blue, call them or speak to them in person to check the details before you send money.

It’s worth doing this to check any bank details you’ve been given are legitimate. This advice goes for any time of year, not just at Christmas. 

You should also be wary if you’re unexpectedly asked to send gift cards. Scammers like gift cards because they’re difficult to trace, making it almost impossible for them to be caught.

You’re very unlikely to get your money back if you’ve sent gift cards to a fraudster.

Have you or someone you know been affected by a scam like this? Tell us about it below.


I had Liz Hurley ask me for money once. Obvious scam though.

Aisha soni says:
27 November 2020

Don’t give money out or gift cards on social media look after your money

I use Facebook to post information related to a small society, answer questions and ‘like’ posts that are helpful or friendly. I have no Facebook Friends and ignore the suggested Friends that Facebook’s algorithms come up with, together with genuine requests.

So far, I have had no requests for cash.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Just to clarify, this one isn’t a celebrity impersonation scam – it’s your real, genuine friends having their accounts taken over by scammers, who then use their profile to contact family and friends. A very effective scam as it completely skips the part where the fraudster needs to gain your trust.

Kevin says:
5 December 2019

This story could be presented in two words:

Beware Facebook.

That’s all you need to know, qualifying it gives spurious credence to the rest of this online parasite.

I wish I could have even an ounce of sympathy for anyone scammed through their facebook account. Havnt there been enough warnings about this company in the press to get users to delete all their data and irrevocably close their account? Its not just the criminals who use it to scam the gullible but the questionable way FB operate and the billions made through exploiting people’s data. Nothing sinks my heart more to see how businesses have also embraced FB including our very own Which.

Diane Bolton says:
9 December 2019

I had a friend (!) asking me to put money into my account and then wanted me to download
Teamviewer remote control then you can connect to my PC directly so he can direct me what to do.
At first I thought it was genuine until as was asked to download Teamviewer.

Flo Clucas says:
10 December 2019

Yes. I had a message, supposedly from a friend. In response to my reply, the person said she was away and needed an itunes card for £200 as a gift. I looked on the Which? site as I was suspicious. I clicked on the sender’s address. It was different from one I use for her. When challenged, the e mailer said she had both addresses.
I contacted Action Fraud having checked for scams.
I telephoned my friend and left a message for her. She had been contacted by many people, who had received the same message as me.
FB needs to do more.

Jamie says:
18 May 2020

My Facebook has just been hacked, the scammer asked Facebook friends for money as I was struggling. When my brother suggested I use my savings scammer said it took 3 days to get money out of isa. Brother requested his bank details then gave the scammer some abuse as he had realised following a call with me. Scammer bragged he’s made 1.5k off my account, wasn’t from uk but yet his bank details are a London bank. Don’t think anyone gave him money, hopefully just saving face!

I received an email supposedly from Netflix saying my monthly parent had been declined and to prevent suspension of services please: Update my billing detaiks”
-Your friends at Netflix
2020 Netflix. Inc

The joke is I don’t pay Netflix
So it must have been a scam trying to get my information

I left Facebook years ago, and since then, I have been glad that I did. I feel it is a mistake to open one’s heart to these data-gathering programs, and the details people give out are often full of intimate information. Facebook – and other huge online, power-hungry concerns – seem to concentrate wealth ever more into ever fewer pockets. Sadly, the poorer we millions of people become – especially now that so many jobs and businesses are being trashed, the more rabid become the glossy adverts to try and grab their share of a shrinking consumer market. We little people are in the hands of ruthless sharks, and UK Gov seems useless, and full of pc blah blah.

I have once ordered something online, and it was a scam. Barclays refunded my cash.
I constantly get emails purporting to be from my friends and ex-colleagues, but the emails are scams.
McAfee security is scammed often, threatening dire consequences in scary coloured fonts. Unfortunately, genuine McAfee does not allow communication unless a member. Lazybones! So I cannot report this scam to them.

Robert Palmer says:
15 October 2020

From experience avoid Facebook like the plague ( or covid19). Nasty messages come through without any prior knowledge

I have just had the dubious ‘pleasure’ of the fake mc afee malware warning on my computer .The screen is blocked and a phone number is displayed for the helpdesk , of course it sends you to a fake ‘advisor’ , I have spent nearly 2 days so far contacting banks etc to try to protect my finances , nobody seems to want to know about this fraud , be careful !!!!!

Does this warning reappear appear if you restart your computer, Eric? I have seen fake warnings pop-up on websites to encourage users to click on links even though the computer is not affected by malware.

Raqs Max says:
20 November 2020

A student in my College was contacted through Snapchat by a close friend (the account had been cloned). The Friend asked for money to pay for a hotel bill, as she was in a difficult situation and had to leave her home for her own safety. My student paid the money without thinking; she is struggling financially herself and will not get the money back.

Paul Skinns says:
28 November 2020

It doesn’t have to be through social media, I receive regular emails from friends on my contacts list that are not friends or on my contact list each email has a different sender.

Peter Moseley says:
28 November 2020

I don’t do social media, I had one bad experience years ago and that put an end to it! I don’t do you Tube. I delete Emails that I am not expecting without reading them. I once had an email from an old friend and to check the friend was genuine I asked a question only that person would know the answer to, I never got a reply so it was a scam email.

Peter Moseley says:
28 November 2020

1)Trust nothing you read online.
2) take your own council
3) if its too good to be true then its a scam, trust your first gut feel
4) use the internet as little as you can
5) trust the old adage you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand!
= that gives you a carefree existence lol