Social networking and social networking sites are the latest craze, and people around the world are now connecting, meeting and sharing information like mad. Facebook is by far the most popular social site of all, where an estimated 800 million or more people of all ages and ethnicities show their profile to millions of others around the world. Social networks have become a great source for information gathering for many. Employers, law enforcement, private investigators and even criminals now actively use the information found online and on social networks.
Law enforcement across the U.S. and Europe have reported many cases where the criminal first studied his victim online, before committing the real world crime. Thanks to all your sharing on social networking sites, criminals can often determine your address, date of birth, where you work and where you went to school, and obtain photos of you and your family, all without ever meeting you. Then, the criminal can view your house and even what kind of car you drive by using Google Maps. If you post when you’re away for the weekend or on vacation, it doesn’t take long to see the risk. Private investigators have seen cases of robbery; identity theft, harassment, rape and even murder originate from information first found on a social networking site.
Careful What You Share
Privacy is important, and should be treated as such. Never post your date of birth or address on social networking sites such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc. Remember what you share with your followers or friends, could end up in the wrong hands. As a rule, know that what you post on the internet, may be visible by the world and hard to get off the internet once it is published. Never post when you are away from home for strangers and potential criminals to see.
Be Skeptical of New “Friends”
Many internet criminals and scammers are using social networking sites as a hunting ground to find their victims. Scammers often will send you a friend request or want to connect with you. Their profiles often look harmless, or even exactly what you’re looking for. They may seem friendly and show no signs of any red flags. Their goal is to gain your trust, and slowly extract information from you. Once they have sufficient information on you, they can steal your identity, or even install a virus on your computer via an email attachment to steal your passwords.
Be skeptical of all relationships formed online. If you believe the person is honest and real, consider a phone conversation before meeting in person, if you plan to do so. If you meet in person, be sure to meet in a public place. If the relationship is only online, restrict the communication to your social networking site, and don’t use your personal email.
Who’s Reading Your Profile?
Privacy is being threatened every day. Governments want more control over their citizens, and big brother is watching. Certain words may trigger a red flag with government agencies to begin to monitor your accounts and activity for “security concerns”. Or, your employer, without your consent, may begin to include social network monitoring to ensure their employees aren’t engaged in any unethical or “inappropriate” behavior outside the workplace. Fight for your privacy and take advantage of any privacy settings available on social networking sites. Set your privacy settings to friends only, and refuse your employer and other companies access.
If you have over 500 contacts or “friends”, you may consider reviewing your contacts, and ask yourself if you trust all those individuals or companies who you’re sharing with.
Avoid Dating Scams
Online dating and romance scams are no longer exclusively for online dating sites. Many new romances (and scams) are now started on social networking sites like Facebook. Watch out for red flags such as requests for money, traveling overseas, situations that seem too good to be true, etc. If you think the relationship has potential and may be worth pursing, be safe and contact a reputable investigation firm for a discreet dating background check investigation.
All the best,
© 2012 S. Birch
© 2012 S. Birch