The internet has changed the lives of more than two billion people on Earth, for better or for worse. It is a very informative and educational tool, and can be used as a valuable way to connect to new people and businesses, when used properly. On the other hand, it has taken the personal and real out of relationships. Identities can now be electronic, or profiles, and profiles are often exaggerated or entirely fake. It’s by definition made the world a little less real. The days of meaningful postmarked letters and post cards from abroad, anticipated and read by the whole family are long gone, and so are some of the values that came with it. Writing is now done with instant messaging, email and Blackberry, with little thought or care for proper writing or style. It’s an internet world and increasingly people are spending more time with their computers than with real human beings. The long term effects are unclear, but the change is dramatic.
In the Philippines, Philippines investigators say there is real risk in social media outlets such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, Linkedin and others, and caution is advised. More people are relying on social networks to make new friends, find love, seek employment opportunities, or just to avoid boredom and loneliness. Ironically, by spending time alone behind a computer and behind part of an electronic “community” many feel less isolated from the rest of the world, even if the rest of the world lie just outside, off-line and in real life with physical contact. And, social networks have risk that is contributing to the scam and fraud problem in the Philippines.
The Philippines is not alone. Recent news stories abound of congressmen twittering inappropriate photographs to mistresses, Fortune 500 companies losing millions of dollars through wired money scams, hackers releasing secrets online, and even terrorists and Mexican drug dealers now using social media as a tool to spread their message, which often can have a negative impact on the global society. The cyber world is not always a nice, friendly and safe place. In fact, it is getting more dangerous all the time. Unscrupulous competitors are posting false information about respectable companies online, individuals claim to be companies, and more. Sifting through all the false and misleading information can be a major challenge. But, what has law enforcement most concerned is the sharp increase in internet scams and fraud via social media.
Philippines detectives say the Philippines has become one of the epicenters for fraud activity and scams involving social media. Wymoo® International, a professional private investigation firm with investigators in over 100 countries, says the risk from the Philippines now ranks with renowned countries such as Russia, the Ukraine, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. The FBI and U.S. Embassy in Manila receive regular complaints from U.S. citizens who have been scammed online, and in many cases, the scams were initiated using social media websites. Criminals are now taking to the internet to do their dirty work. Romance scams, marriage scams identity theft and business fraud is now being run form the Philippines by criminals that use social media as their hunting ground. Experts say proceed with caution, never reveal your personal data online to someone who has not been verified, and never send money to anyone you have not met in person, and had verified by a professional private investigator with experience and training.
Social media has enabled scammers to hide behind their profiles, creating false identities and relationships, only to gain your trust, then steal your money or identity. Scams in the Philippines are often carried out by young men and women who have limited opportunity, and are seeking a better life anyway possible, even if it means lying and deceiving their online “friends”.
Be skeptical and cautious when using social media sites. Know the risk and be safe.
All the best,
© 2011 S. Birch