It seems to me that we have a social media generation, who would see any life event that was not shared on Facebook or Twitter as significantly devalued. The standard, “Don’t over-share” advice, just does not seem relevant, or is ignored. Like don’t share your date of birth, what and miss out on all of those birthday messages! If a birthday party happens and no pictures of it appear on Facebook, has it really happened at all?
So here are my thoughts on social media fraud prevention.
Use Social Media to Prevent Fraud
Social Media is great for getting feedback on what people really feel about anything. Why not use it to confirm your decision before you buy and hopefully prevent fraud as lots of fraud could be prevented by consulting others. Don’t just think Google web search! Do a social media search on www.Topsy.com which searches Twitter, Photo, Video and Google+ in one easy step. With a social media search you can see what people are saying about any subject.
To search for comments on Facebook use www.Openbook.org to search public updates. Try searching on these sites for the item, service or person you are reviewing plus keywords; “scam”, “fraud” or “review”. It is far better protection to learn what people are saying about something, rather than just viewing their website which is unverifiable.
Even if from these actions, you don’t learn about fraud on your potential purchase, you might find a coupon to reduce the price or somewhere to get the item cheaper, or learn that it’s just that it’s not that great.
You should also consider direct messaging some of your inner circle to review the decision, rather than put it on your public status update.
Understand That There is a Fraud Risk for You
The over-riding reaction to victims of fraud, like these ladies who lost $25,000 to a fraudster they met on a dating site, is “Wow, that person was really stupid”. See the comments on the linked story.
The truth is that it’s not really about intelligence, in this case the victim was a professional person, instead it is about understanding the fraudster’s mission. I summarise a fraudster’s mission to be “To find a victims emotional buttons and to push them”.
Now consider that many of your “emotional buttons” will be visible in your social media status updates. So if you are lonely, the fraudster’s mission is to be your friend or potential lover, if you are power-hungry the fraudsters mission is to message your ego and offer you a special investment opportunity and if you have any health problem their mission is to sell you a “cure”.
In all cases the fraudster is selling exactly the same thing, absolutely nothing in exchange for large amounts of cash, they are just packaging it differently, dependent on what works for a particular victim.
So the anti-fraud advice should not be, to look out for people that “are too good to be true”, instead to look out for people offering, “the perfect solution to your immediate and overwhelming problem or desire”. Most people know George Clooney won’t friend you on Facebook, and that if he did, you would spot it as fraudulent straight away, but will you spot fraud when that “perfect” person suddenly friends you?
Prevention involves taking a few minutes to figure out what Fraudsters want and then looking at your social media activity to assess the risks. Just in case you didn’t know what Fraudsters want, in order of desirability it is:
1) Your Bank Account – Just let me log in, I will sort it out myself!
2) You to send them money – I love you, I’m in trouble, send me money!
3) Your Identity – Thanks for building up that good reputation, it’s going to get dirty!
There is a fraud risk to you, as there is for everyone, understand that there is and consider it in your updates and connections.
Social Media Timing
Just because you can update your status now doesn’t mean you should. Your holiday photos will get as many comments after you have returned to your home, as if you updated them when you were on holiday. Moreover, when your home is empty, unprotected and 300 people will know that this is the case; this is not the ideal time to say you are out of the country.
You can also use lots of automated Social Media tools like “Seesmic” or “Hootsuite” to update your status while you are away, a kind of light-switch-timer for the social media age!
Social Media Controls
Here is some more standard advice – “Do not accept requests or messages from people your do not know”. Wow, really are the 600 million people on Facebook only talking to people that they really know, of course not!
Part of the fun of Facebook, as my Wife says, is playing “Facebook Detective” and looking at the photos and timelines of people you barely know and comparing your lifestyle to theirs! We all know this, still we need to understand that we do have some control in the Social Media world and we should exercise it every so often and have a cull.
The chances are that you are not going to meet that couple you met on Holiday five years ago again. Write a quick list of criteria like married, in my country, or whatever you like and then use these criteria to cull friends and contacts. Perhaps, also cull those “lurkers” (people whose status you never see updated but are reading your updates).
As soon as you join any new social network they will try to get you to import your current contacts, consider not doing this and creating a break between the social networks, after-all if you have the same contacts on different social networks, then what is the point really?
Social Media has plenty of advantages; like elsewhere in life there are risks and you just need to take some steps to keep yourself safe. What steps have you taken to safeguard yourself against online fraud?