Monday January 17, 2011
Beware the Facebook felons
By P. ARUNA
PETALING JAYA: Crooks are cashing in on personal details readily revealed by some Facebook users and using them in identity frauds, blackmail or to “steal” money from users.
Over-excited online social network users who reveal personal information and accept “friendship” requests from complete strangers have made the site an increasingly popular target for cybercriminals.
Many users, especially beginners, experience culture shock when they suddenly become “popular” and receive many friendship requests, said criminologist and Malaysian Association of Certified Fraud Examiners president Datuk Akhbar Satar.
“They feel encouraged to reveal more information about themselves without realising the damage it could cause,” he said, adding that many users even posted sexy or nude pictures of themselves on the website and ended up being blackmailed by complete strangers.
Akhbar said the practice of posting personal details such as birth dates, addresses and telephone numbers on the website had proven to be the source of a lucrative business for identity fraudsters.
“The crime triangle comprises elements of desire, target and opportunity. Once there is a desire to commit the crime, the criminal identifies the target and opportunity. This is where Facebook comes in,” he said.
According to Socialbakers.com, a website dedicated to global Facebook statistics, there are currently 9,874,860 Facebook users in Malaysia alone, which is 37.75% of the entire population.
Youths between the ages of 18 and 25 formed the majority of Malaysian users – 38% – while the youngest group, aged between 13 and 15, makes up 7% of users.
The gender ratio of Malaysians on Facebook is almost equal – with 53% of them being female.
Hackers operating on social networks can easily create fake profiles and send friendship requests to unsuspecting users within their target groups.
Many users have become victims of identity frauds, harassment, blackmail and have lost money through various scams operated via the website.
There have also been reports of gangs and drug syndicates in Malaysia recruiting members through Facebook and other social networks.
The criminals’ job is made easier as the name and profile picture of the user is visible to all via the websites’ default privacy settings.
“Unlike crimes committed in the physical world, cyber crimes require little or no investment,” said Akhbar, adding that such crimes were also difficult to detect.