For example: in September, an advertisement for a colon cleanser was posted to Facebook, purportedly by a woman from Nova Scotia. In reality, the woman had succumbed to breast cancer some nine months before.
Cyber security gurus at Cisco Systems Inc. say that social networks have become the latest "playground for cyber criminals." Henry Stern, senior security researcher for Cisco in Canada, told CanWest News Service that "there is an excess of trust in social networking."
Stern says that the traditional scam involving poorly-written pleas for help in unlocking alleged family fortunes is rapidly being replaced by scams involving hijacked social networking accounts and pleas for funds from distressed friends or family members.
Hackers will hijack a collection of webmail or social networking accounts, and then extort funds from the victim's contacts. Messages are sent out to family and friends pleading for help from abroad: a stolen wallet or purse, credit cards gone, no cash, someone made off with their cell phone…
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"One of the big differences here is that with the Nigerian scam e-mail, the traditional one, the people who get caught up in it really should be knowing better," Stern said. "But with these, it's someone trying to do the right thing and getting burned for it."
This breed of identity theft is beginning to happen with alarming frequency, said Stern to the Vancouver Sun on December 29.
Facebook hit the 350 million mark in users this year. As social networking is expected to grow into 2010 and beyond, more businesses are realizing the value in social media participation.
So too, it seems, are the purveyors of Internet fraud.