As we have seen, social networking sites are particularly vulnerable to fraudsters because they are communities built on trust. The urge to post personal and often intimate details of your everyday social and working life makes these site rich pickings for identity theft.
Fraudsters will often set up false identities on the larger social networking sites, enabling them to present themselves as someone else, whether real or not. The false identity is the basic tool of the con artist, and though some false identities will be created for fun, most will have a more predatory mission, engaging the unsuspecting, establishing fake friendships and often leading to requests of aid, money and potentially more.
Rather than fake an identity, many cyber criminals will simply ‘hack’ a profile page, all they need is a username and password. In many cases, this is their idea of a game, and will result in little more than defacing the page with graffiti. However, in more serious cases, these hacks will be used to install malicious code, often for the purposes of spamming others, or in the worst case to launch cyber bullying and trolling attacks on others.
Most concerning is the rise in identity theft initiated through social media sites. The way most criminals gain access to an identity is by phishing for a log-on password, usually by sending a message via the social network which appears to be an invite from a friend to their new profile page. This fake page will ask for a second log in. That is how easy it is for your confidential password to fall in to the wrong hands. Most social network log-in passwords will almost certainly give access to other sites, from additional social networks to banking, which in turn are enhancing their security with questions built around your personal preferences. Social media profile pages are a rich source for exactly this kind of personal information that can be used for ID theft, from age and birth date, to location, phone number, email address, as well a job and family details. More than anything else, the fraudster will have access to recent photography of you. In the worst case, fraudsters will use this information to not only pillage your bank account, but will target your network of friends and family using your identity.
In part three we will suggest some useful advice on how to prevent becoming a victim of social media fraud…