Thursday, September 11, 2008

Frauds Galore

Social networking may have brought many good things to people. Many long lost friends have been reunited, many new friends have met and many romance ending marriages have formed.

But social networking sites have become a rendezvous not just of friendly people but of frauds as well. Worse, the target of these evil people lurking amidst what is supposed to be a place of smiles is to steal identities and use these to trick and steal from other people!

Look at social networking websites like Friendster, Bebo, Facebook and MySpace and you will easily see many people displaying their profiles publicly.

I read somewhere that in the United Kingdom alone, 80,000 people have been victimized by identity stealing last year and the toll has amounted to more than 1 billion British Pounds!

These frauds are simply taking of advantage of the mathematics field of probability and statistics. There are millions of internet users and each user may have on average about 5 accounts on different social networking sites. They can easily guess username and passwords by trying to deduce from publicly shown information such as birthdays, place of birth, pet's name, mother's names, affiliations, etc. Sounds familiar? – Yes, it does sound familiar because you commonly encounter this during sign up!

Next time, you try to limit the information you send online. If the registration does not require fields on it, do not fill it up. Do not join online surveys of websites you are not familiar with.

On friendster, my most visited among social networking site, I have given miminal information and, take note, in the account settings, I placed there that only my first degree friends can see my profile. This is very important.

On a different note, my brother asked me to pay for an online phone service using my credit card. When I clicked their about us section, there was no mention of company name. When I clicked the contact us section, there was no physical address. The only phone address they have is a toll free hotline to a call center and the agent said they could not disclose the company name as a protocol. Huh? And to think that my brother, who is somewhere in the middle east, said the company agent who referred the site him is an old friend. And before you ask, yes, I was talking to my real brother, identity verified and all.

Still on a different note, I still have been getting chain emails from my relatives despite my warning them that chain emails are "tools of the devil" spams. After several forwarding and circulations, these spammers can already collect thousands of email addresses for potential attacks.

There are thousands of reasons to be paranoid about on the internet. The keyword here is caution and moderation. And if is possible, do not stick to one password. Make several passwords which are difficult to memorize. Then record these difficult passwords the old fashion way: write them on paper until you memorize them from constant use. Just make sure that paper is secured in your hands! When you have memorized, burn the paper.

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