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Criminals look out for holiday or lifestyle posts on social media to target victims

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    Nat Quinn
    Durban – Be careful what you post online, you may be inviting criminals to your door.
    Experts say that bragging about your flashy car on Facebook or WhatsApp or posting pictures of your cool holiday destination on Instagram may just be “liked” by the wrong crowd and garner the wrong kind of attention.
    From stalking to identity theft, housebreaking, child exploitation, kidnapping and extortion, social media has served as a valuable tool for those wanting to use it for nefarious purposes.
    “From an exposure point of view… kidnap and ransom are on the rise in South Africa and on a weekly basis there are stories of people being kidnapped and a large part of the time they are exposed through their social media platforms. It’s an information gathering tool and we need to respect it as that,” said Peter Olyott, CEO of financial services provider, Indwe Risk Services.
    He warned that even though you may only have 30 people in your network, those people had their own networks and very soon your information could be with thousands of people you don’t know.
    “When you put your life out there on social media it’s easily accessible by anyone, good guys and bad guys. People like to show off their lifestyle, where they’re jetting off to next, but by the same token if you start sharing that you are away on holiday 5 000km away, the thieves also know you are not at home so you become vulnerable,” said Olyott.
    According to datareportal.com, a site which collates statistics, South Africa had 25.80 million social media users in January, almost 43% of the population. As the number continues to boom, so do the security risks as people freely dish up intimate details of their lives, their possessions and where their children go to school.
    “Some people lose their last R50 000 and others millions through social media scams,” national police spokesperson, Brigadier Athlenda Mathe warned.
    Mathe said committing crimes through social media was prevalent around the world.
    “The use of social media is a low-risk and high-return platform and is a popular crime resource for perpetrators who utilise social media to prey on their victims,” she said.
    She said spear phishing or vishing was used to target specific individuals based on their social media portfolio, such as a director of a company whose details were in the public domain.
    “They monitor what an individual owns like their houses and cars, the clothes they wear and use this information to target individuals.”
    She warned that all platforms were exposed to criminal activity and people could fall victim to ransomware, phishing and even scams involving anything from vehicles to dogs and even birds.
    Private Investigator Rick Crouch, who has worked with the FBI, police and local companies, said most cyber crimes they came across were on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. He said criminals tapped into various profiles depending on their needs.
    “If they are researching their kidnap target they would follow where they go and what they do (Facebook check-ins). If they are looking for a burglary target they are looking for any photos of the house, possessions, valuables, car etc. If they are looking for a scam target or a romance scam target, they are looking for anyone that will accept a friend request from a stranger or a friend request from a friend they are already connected to.”
    Crouch said criminals could use social media to lure victims into a trap by creating a fake persona or using a real one to build trust before committing their crime. They also use it to communicate with accomplices or to make ransom demands, making it easier to negotiate and transfer the payment.
    Crouch said social media was prevalent in crimes related to fraud. He said to protect themselves people should lock down their profiles so that only friends had access to what they posted and no one, not even their friends, could view their full list of friends.
    “Do not accept friend requests from people you do not personally know because that is how scammers access your information to create a cloned account, which they then use to scam your friends. Especially do not accept a friend request from a strange pretty female and if you do, do not send that profile naked pictures of yourself when they request them because you will be setting yourself up to be blackmailed,” he said.
    The Independent on Saturday spoke to victims who were willing to share their experiences but asked that their names be withheld.
    A Cape Town woman said on February 16, she became a victim of hacking when thieves accessed her WhatsApp, withdrawing many small amounts and not triggering a bank SMS or email.
    A 49-year-old Durban woman said she had been the victim of identity theft after a fake profile, using her pictures and information taken from Facebook, was created on a dating site.
    Crouch says social media users should refrain from posting:
    Personal identification information including full name, ID number, driver’s licence number and passport number.
    Financial information such as credit card or bank account numbers.
    Never share passwords or security questions/answers.
    Be cautious about sharing your current location or travel plans including check-ins at airports.
    Home address and phone number.
    Explicit or inappropriate content can harm your personal and professional reputation.
    Avoid sharing sensitive or personal conversations or private messages because they can be used to harass or blackmail you.



    SOURCE:‘Liked’ by the bad guys (iol.co.za)



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