Mind Candy

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Social networking scams to watch out for

Posted by mandyf on January 6, 2012

Social networking scams are on the rise as this genre of sites has steadily grown since gaining their first foothold on the web. While site statistics claim a huge number of members, in some cases over 100 million, online analysts believe that there are hundreds of  millions of unique account holders using these sites based on people having accounts at each networking site and the knowledge that some people have a few or even dozens of accounts on one site they maintain. With all of that activity the potential for scams is an unavoidable part of the package.

The most common scam, or some people call it annoyance, is downloading malware through social networking sites. The problem exists for two reasons basically, one being there are people that want to take advantage of others, and the second being that in order to stay ahead of the competition site upgrades do not always launch free of glitches which protect against this. Even with good site security teams, techniques change so rapidly it is difficult for them to keep up with what worms its way on site. While some may say this isn’t a scam, think again.

A recent attack was one in which a user was instructed to download/upgrade a new version of a media player to see a video. Once this was done, the malware was planted on their computer and took over their address book mailing out an email to everyone on their contact list and in their address book as it gained access to their email off site as well. With that done countless people were quickly infected and everything they had stored in any email they saved was now open to outside inspection. that could include anything from personal plans to credit card and banking information, work related data, or anything under the sun. With that a scammer could easily compile bits of information to sell to identity thieves for a nice easy profit.

The second big scam is false identity scams. Especially in the case of Twitter and Facebook where celebrities are known to be actual members in order to promote them self or their work this has been a tremendous problem. In some cases the true account for a celebrity is common knowledge and is safe to interact with. In other cases it most certainly is not. It isn’t just celebrities however that have accounts opened in their names, everyday people fall victim to this as well. How and why this happens is easy to follow.

Social networking sites require no identity verification to open an account in any name aside from a valid email address. With a valid email address you can choose any account name you want which is available and post nearly any material you want as well. In the case of the average person these are usually done by less than friendly individuals looking to smear a persons name. When it is done to a celebrity it is usually for one of two reasons. One is that a pathetic person wants to feel important by getting people to contact them and feel some form of adulation. The other reason is a financial scam is in the works. In one of the more elaborate scams people have set such accounts up in which they offer to sell certain personal things of the celebrity, for charity of course most times. The user electronically transfers or mails money orders to the “Fund” set up for this either getting nothing or bogus merchandise. The scammer reaps the rewards and closes down once the heat is on.

Another common scam playing off the above theme is the profile page hack. Some people hack another persons profile page purely out of being nosy, sometimes however it is for more than ruining their page. A person that hacks a profile page also has the ability to see your registration information. With that they can then change the contact information so you cannot even access it/ they also have your email address and in far too many cases figure out that your profile password is often the same as your email password. With that information tucked away they can steal that as well and completely take over your identity online for any purpose they desire. The harm is not only online as they can then tamper with any order of financial business you conduct through that account which is far easier than you would think.

Finally there is the widget scam. Widgets are all the rage and when legitimately used are fine, however they also open Pandora’s box to spam. Is spam a scam you may ask? In some cases, yes it is. The way this scam works is innocent enough as well as self inflicted. Let’s suppose you go to any of the social networking profile building sites and download a widget to decorate your page or direct your visitors to another site where you also have content. That is how the scam begins.

The widget actually starts tracking where you go and what you do online. It then compiles a profile of you and sells that information much like could be done using a tracking cookie. The problem is it also tracks everyone that visits your page as well and creates an email that goes to their account from you asking them to visit somewhere or respond so they are compromised as well. Initially you say big deal, I can block spam. That is true, however the spam is not the garden variety type and is usually some form of scam which comes in under the identity of friends that visited your page and usually requests some form of money to cover an emergency that just arose. Most people spot this for what it is, but far too many fail too.

Don’t let all of this scare you away from social networking sites. There is the potential for danger anywhere you go on or off the web. Just be smart and pay close attention to how things are working. Every now and then check to see if profiles exist in your name and follow the site guidelines to shut them down. An ounce of prevention and a little common sense can help you avoid a pound of problems.


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