“Phishing” attempts to get you to disclose personal information via email or telephone. “Smishing” refers to deceptive text messages, and “Vishing” refers to deceptive voicemails. Your BBB® is receiving a dramatic increase of calls concerning the use of Social Media to trick us in to providing personal information, a phenomenon known as “Farcing.”
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has conducted a study (PDF) to measure interaction trends between internet users and Facebook. It was conducted in order to better help victims with Facebook-related identity theft concerns and issues. What they learned is (a) aggressive identity thieves are now using social media sites to trick us. It’s much easier and more lucrative and (b) it is more important than ever to question any friend request from someone you do not know.
Most often, friend requests come from a friend-of-a-friend.
Assuming that person is who they say they are, without confirming it, is dangerous, says Arun Vishwanath, associate professor of communication at the University of Buffalo.
“Farcing takes place on popular social media platforms and has been used for online bullying, identity theft, organizational espionage, child pornography and even burglary,” said Vishwanath.
Not only could you be a victim to “farcing,” but you could also be exposing your family and friends as well.
Consider all the information that is available to a “friend.” Once accepted as a friend, the con would have access to your name, your nicknames and the names of friends and relatives. He could learn what schools you attended and where you have worked. He might even learn your address, pet’s name and favorite vacation sites plus when you’re leaving and how long you’ll be gone; all valuable to someone trying to steal your identity, take out loans and clean out bank accounts.
The ITRC study found that more users tended to be concerned and aware of identity theft related to Facebook, but still tend to believe that financial harm cannot be caused by Facebook usage.
Vishwanath got the idea for a study of the phenomenon from a local crime story in the Buffalo area where a substitute teacher created a false identity and fake Facebook profile.
Vishwanath set up a simulated farcing experiment on Facebook. He created 4 fake profiles, each with different levels of information attached to them. For example, some had photos and other friends, some didn’t. He next recruited 150 Facebook users and contacted them with friend requests. One in 5 agreed with the initial friend request. Another 13% of that group agreed to provide the new “friend” with additional information about themselves when he asked. A motivated farcer can go on to the second stage, requesting more information directly from the victim through messaging. The main two ways to protect yourself are:
- Only friend people you actually know.
- Limit the amount and types of personal information you share on social media sites.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/evansville.