Risks grow with popularity of social network sites

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- As the popularity of social networking continues to grow -- as do the techniques of Internet scammers and hackers ready to take advantage of you, your friends and your family.

Social networking scams are active and scary, but there are steps you can take to avoid becoming a target and a victim.

Charleston resident Job Bailey is one of many that scammers have attempted to target -- they hacked a friend's Facebook page and contacted him in request of help and money.

"I was on Facebook when a girl I knew from college instant messaged me," Bailey said. "She went on to tell me that she was on vacation in London, England and that the night before her and her husband had gotten mugged at gun point."

"... That they took all their cash , credit cards and cell phones and she now needed my help to get back to the us. She said the hotel would not let her leave and she needed one thousand dollars from me to settle her hotel bill and cab fee to the airport."

Cyber crime experts call Bailey's experience the Western Union Scam and it's becoming more common than ever.

"With the proper training an experienced hacker could not only break into your Facebook account, and not only access your email, but access it at will," said JLA Investigation & Securities investigator Alfred L. Johnson.

Johnson says that before you fall victim to a scammer on a social networking site you should ask yourself these questions:

"Is it coincidental that your friend is in a foreign country?"

"Is it coincidental that your friend is robbed in a foreign country and that he couldn't get to a phone but got to a computer and text you?"

"Wouldn't a real friend simply call you and ask for the money?"

Johnson said the Western Union scam isn't the only thing to be afraid of. He said there are many techniques at use by hackers that put your privacy, identity and security at risk.

"Never go to a link thru an email," Johnson said. "Avoid going to a link thru advertising - always best to put a link in yourself. These types of scams are predicated on redirects and misdirects and you think you are going to a legitimate site but one small change it's name .... You click on a link and the info you put in is being captured and you are not where you think you are."

"In the technology age the criminal element morphs and evolves almost as rapidly as the technology."

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