updated 9/3/2009 11:09:16 AM ET 2009-09-03T15:09:16

A Missouri woman was tricked into wiring about $4,000 to someone in England after receiving faked messages from a friend on Facebook asking for help, police said Wednesday.

Jayne Scherrman of Cape Girardeau wired the money through Western Union after receiving what she believed were several requests for help from her friend, Sgt. Jason Selzer said.

Police were notified about the scam on Aug. 26, Selzer said. They believe someone took over the Facebook account of a Cape Girardeau County resident, Grace Parry, changed the password so she couldn't access it and sent out messages saying she and her husband had been detained in London and needed money.

Scherrman said received a message last Tuesday from Parry saying she needed help. Scherrman, a pediatric dentist, said Parry and her minister husband go on mission trips, so she didn't think it unusual that they might be in England.

She figured they really needed assistance if they could only reach her electronically, and expected they'd quickly pay her back. She originally was told electronically they needed $600 for a hotel and taxis. Then she was told it wasn't enough with the exchange rate. Finally, she was told by a caller that the couple had been detained and more money was needed to help them fly home.

Scherrman asked to speak with her friend, but was told she wasn't available. She also got a name from the caller and tried to get an address when she realized she might have been scammed. By then, she had wired nearly $4,000 through three Western Union transfers, she said.

Parry said another friend from Mississippi also sent $600.

Parry, who hadn't traveled to England in years, tried to access her account to warn other friends but couldn't. She asked Facebook to suspend her account, and her husband posted warnings about the scam, including one Scherrman received after she'd sent the money.

Parry said she feels violated by what happened. "It's just sad because they work on people's compassion, and Jayne's a very compassionate person," she said. She said she had never posted a lot of information about herself online.

Selzer said people should remember to change their passwords often and to be careful about posting personal information.

Palo Alto, California-based Facebook said Internet schemes like this one aren't uncommon. Facebook has systems to detect suspicious behavior tied to compromised accounts and blocks it when it possible, company spokesman Simon Axten wrote in an e-mail.

"We're also working with law enforcement and with Western Union (a wire transfer company commonly used by the scammers) to investigate specific cases and improve education," he wrote.

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