Social media users are being warned by federal agencies and the Better Business Bureau against displaying a wide range of personal information online following an increase in internet crime in the last year.
According to the BBB serving Alaska, Oregon, and Western Washington, reported internet crime last year grew roughly 50% from 2012, an increase that shows a pattern of scams targeting social media users.
The BBB warns that social media users may be unknowingly helping scammers perpetrate crimes against themselves and their contacts by way of their public profiles. Birthdays, names of relatives, contact information, and other personal information can give criminals an edge when it comes to obtaining sensitive and private information about an individual.
Exemplary cases include romance scams, identity theft, photo and mugshot scams, and even phone scams in which scammers pretend to be a long lost friend or relative. Other, more extreme cases include “sextortion” scams, where an individual can be compromised by having chat videos recorded without their knowledge, and lead to an exchange of money or favors in order to keep the sensitive material private.
The total amount of losses from internet crimes surpassed $780 million, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which works in cooperation with multiple federal and state agencies to investigate complaints of internet scams, fraud, and other crimes. Their report on internet crime in 2013 highlighted a wide variety of scams being implemented in the U.S. and other countries.
The BBB listed several easy steps for protecting private information online, while ICCC has provided an extensive list of scams, a list that has grown significantly in recent years. Suspected internet crimes can be reported via their website, Looks Too Good To Be True.