For those of you who like to share your lives on the internet, and who are not overly concerned about privacy or free speech (and yes, there are over a billion out there), then chances are good you’re a Facebook user. Many think we know what to expect when we check our Facebook. For most people, Facebook is just a means to stay up to date with everything that is going on, whether it is with family and friends or with the world in general (assuming the information makes it past the politically correct police and censorship of Facebook moderators). Facebook has converted much of its users into zombies, constantly looking down at their phones, oblivious to the real world around them.
For private investigators, the success of Facebook has created a new and steady demand for investigations, as criminals are using the social media platform more than evidence to find, target and scam victims. Criminals love when you share online, so Facebook is the perfect hunting ground.
Wymoo International based in the U.S. has reported a 30% increase YTD with background check investigations related to social media activity or accounts, compared to 2015 levels.
Although a lot of people are aware of the scams on the social media platform, the truth is that fraud continues to evolve. Some of the most common scams are fake contests, malicious links, and spam, which are easier to spot. But romance scams, identity theft, blackmail and more serious crime (such as stalking, home robbery, assault, etc) originating from Facebook are more complicated.
Fake profiles everywhere
Facebook reportedly has around 170 million fake users, and possibly many more that they aren’t quite aware of yet. Many of those are created and used only for advertising purposes, to increase so-called likes and make content go “viral”. However, there are thousands of these fake profiles that are being used to lure innocent people into sending money to strangers, or to steal information.
Spotting a fake profile
A lot of people think that being able to spot if the profile is fake or not is the clue. The truth is that scammers are getting much better at creating profiles, which makes it nearly impossible to distinguish a fake profile from a real one. There is simply no way to know for certain, unless you have met the individual in person. Creating a profile takes minutes and is not verified.
A scammer will have photos, friends, regular posts and will share content just as anybody else does. Some of these criminals will contact people who they do not know, and pretend to have met them somewhere else, like a dating website. Other will just admit not knowing you before sending a friend request, but will say they came across to your profile and became interested immediately.
According to international private investigators, the latest trend in Facebook fake profile scams is to create a duplicated profile from someone you know. Some of the latest cases of Facebook romance scams were reported by victims who thought they were communicating with an old friend who they haven’t seen for a long time. Getting in touch again with someone you have lost contact with is exciting, so many of the victims never thought they were being part of a scam. Once the scammer has the your trust, he or she will slowly obtain your information, and steal your money or identity.
It is important for people to know that there is no effective way to know if a profile is real or not just by checking their posts. The only effective way to avoid being victim is to conduct a professional background check and verify if the person you have been contacting is real or not. The verification of identity should be done by professional investigator, and should include verifying birth records, employment, education, criminal records, ID and passport, address, documents, and much more.
Protect your privacy
Facebook may not be the best at privacy protection, however, it does have some tools that help you keep as much information as possible private. Check the settings and share information only with your friends. If you want to avoid being target to scams, do not accept any friend request from strangers. No matter if they said they did meet you before, if you do not recall, then do not accept, or at least check if the claims are real. Also, be wary that scammers also duplicate the profiles of people you know, so if you receive a second friend request from any of your friends, check if it is really theirs.
If you’ve met someone online, be safe and stay skeptical. The less you share online, the safer you and your family members are. If you think you’ve met someone you can trust, be safe and contact a reputable private investigator to verify the individual is who he or she claims to be.
© 2016 Wymoo International
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