May 5, 2011

The wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William was a marvelous fairy tale wedding. But not all love stories have a happy ending, less, especially in the world of online dating and social networking websites. Criminals are now targeting social networking sites such as Facebook, and no longer just focusing on online dating sites, such as the traditional

Social networks like Facebook and MySpace are excellent ways to keep in touch and stay updated with friends and loved ones. You share your birthday, your achievements and failures, the latest gadget you just bought, that salary raise, you’re vacation plans, your potos and more intímate details. Often times, that information unknowingly lands in the hands of criminals – online scammers who are eager to gain your trust, and then quick to steal your money and identity. Social networking sites often are an open book, making users vulnerable to online scammers, advance fee fraud criminals, and other internet crime that is a growing threat.

Criminals are now accessing public records to get your address, taking your photo from your profile online, accessing your birthday and other intímate details which you post, and before you know it, the criminal has everything he needs to open a credit card account, or even use your profile to scam others. Consumers are often conducting their own research to check out their online partner. What many don’t know is, even if the individual has a real image, a real address, a real phone number, all which can be corroborated by searching Google and checking generic public records, this doesn’t mean the subject is who he or she claims to be. In fact, criminals are using advance techniques, and it’s becoming more difficult to determine who is real and who is not. There is big money at stake, and criminals are learning what is to be done to convince. Once they earn your trust, they can access your personal information or pocketbook. In many cases, a professional international background check is needed to conduct an international background check, and to verify the facts and screen for fraud.

The personal information you share with “your friends” can be used against you. If you post where you work, a criminal can understand how much you earn, and what your schedule might be. Law enforcement is seeing more cases involving identity theft, romance scams, and even robbery, rape and murder which resulted, in part, from the information gathered by the criminal online. Criminals can even gain your friendship and send you an email with an attachment where you unknowingly install software which retrieves your passwords and account data.

Facebook, in particular, is becoming a hotspot for online crime, and executives at Mark Zuckerberg’s headquarters claim that they are working on ways to prevent such crime and scams on their website. Experts are skeptical if much can be done to stop the scams.

Think twice before you post. Try not to give too much information like your address, phone number, workplace, individuals or family members related to you. Do not accept "friends" you do not know, if they are contacts of other friends of yours, ask first for their references. Change your password from time to time. Never reveal your SSN or date of birth online.

At this time, social networks and online dating sites do not have the capability to adequately screen the millions of users, so it’s up to consumers to be informed and cautious. Experts also recommend contacting a professional international private investigator if you have doubts, so you can minimize your risk, and verify if Mr. or Ms. Perfect is who he or she claims to be.

All the best,

S. Birch.
© 2011 S. Birch

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