CYBERCRIME: Take care not to ‘give away’ too much data about yourself

DCI Andrew Fyfe
DCI Andrew Fyfe
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Giving away too much information about yourself online can be used by criminals as a tool to defraud you.

In the same way as law enforcement build up profiles of criminals, fraudsters gather information readily available online and on social media sites to build up profiles of potential victims.

Det Ch Insp Andrew Fyfe, head of crime at the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, says: “Fraudsters use a lot of detail from social media to impersonate people.

“We have a team who interview ex-prisoners and one of these interviews was with someone who engaged in social media compromise to build up fake identities.

“He told how he would scan places like Facebook and use whatever details he could find and use that information to set up an e-mail address purporting to be somebody else.

“He would then go into all their different accounts such as eBay and change their passwords and take over their lives.

“Often, the victims will only find out when they apply for credit or try to buy something and find out their credit limit has been reached.

“Banks will often recompense people in these circumstances.

“But the victims still have to re-build their reputation and credit rating and reclaim their lives.

“Facebook is the first port of call for crooks when trying to build a profile of someone to take over their identity.“People are still very casual on Facebook and give away far too much information about themselves and don’t always have their privacy settings set.

“Many give far too much information about what they are doing, who they are with, where they work, where they are going and even say when they are on holiday.”

Zain Javed, chief technology officer at cyber security firm Xyone, based at Lancaster University, says: “Criminals often scour Facebook and Twitter and look for people’s weaknesses and send them a targeted message.

“They will be able to see someone is a Manchester United fan from their profile picture.

“So they might send them an e-mail pretending to be from Manchester United thanking them for visiting Old Trafford and offering them a link to a complimentary ticket.

“But when they click on the link, it will download malware onto their computer and attempt to take their personal information.”

“It is all about finding out who you are and what your vulnerabilities and weaknesses are.”

Faye Speed, associate lecturer in criminology and research fellow of the University of Central Lancashire’s cybercrime research unit, who specialises in the area of cyber grooming, says: “Predators are often linking people on different social networking sites.

“They are effectively building a profile of them and will use this information to target them.

“There is not enough emphasis on the merging of the online and the offline world.

“People say things online and do not realise how this might affect them in the real world.

“The virtual world is blurring with the real world and even though the Internet has completely taken over our lives, there are still a lot of people who view it as a separate world.”