Facebook users from Sefton and West Lancashire have been warned by police about a new scam.
A sophisticated Facebook scam sees hackers gain access to a victim's social media account, before messaging their contacts requesting either a short-term loan to help to pay a bill or purchase an item - usually between £200 to £400.
Money sent by the victim is paid into a ‘mule account’ set up by the fraudsters.
Detective Inspector Joanne Devers said: "Unfortunately, as this particular scam plays on people's good nature and willingness to help family and friends, a number of fraudsters have been successful in accessing money for criminal gain - resulting in many people across the country at a loss and finding themselves in financial difficulty, especially during this difficult period.
"This scam can be very convincing and criminals will use similar written text to make the request more believable and seem genuine.
"I would urge people to exercise caution, and if they receive any requests for money from friends or family via social media, always check with the person directly before making the transaction. Never respond to any requests to send money or have money transferred through your account by someone you don’t know and trust.
"I would also recommend following guidance to refresh the security of your online accounts and passwords. The National Cyber Security Centre Cyber Aware initiative provides clear guidance on how to stay safe online."
You can improve your cyber security by taking the following actions:
• Use strong and separate passwords. If hackers gain access to one account they can access all your others if the same password is shared across all.
• Create strong passwords using three random words. Think of three words you’ll remember, and then mix them up with symbols and numbers.
• Save your passwords in your browser so that they are kept on your device. Make sure you protect your device in case you lose it
• Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) which helps to stop the hackers from getting your passwords.
• Update you devices with the latest software update. Out-of-date software makes the operating systems susceptible to weakness and easier to hack.
• Back up your data so that you always have a copy that is retrievable.