The news headlines again are filled with stories about cybertheft and scams.  A recent report states that Facebook is reserving up to $5 billion in anticipation of their settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. The negotiations are on-going so no announcement has been made yet, but the revelation of Facebook’s improper release of users’ personal information back in 2018 has the company posting charges that will be used in a settlement with the FTC.

Google was fined by the FTC back in 2012 for misrepresenting privacy settings in Apple’s Safari internet browser.  Google has also faced significant fines from the European Union over the last four years related to antitrust and privacy issues.  It remains to be seen how these major social media outlets will react going forward, but the public and governments are making it known that access to private data should be toughened.

A fellow advisor recently shared a story with our broker-dealer’s discussion board about a client who was scammed by a group using a US military serviceman’s identity.  The client was deceived by this group because they were able to impersonate the serviceman utilizing available social media information. The scam included this impostor claiming a family member was seriously ill and in need of medical care. The fake serviceman stated that he was based overseas and couldn’t act on the family member’s behalf. The scam sounded so realistic to the fraud victim that it wasn’t until several thousand dollars had been provided to the group that the client became suspicious.  At that point, the scamming group used the threat of exposure and additional harm in an attempt to keep the victim from reporting the situation.
Fortunately, the victim did report it to the FBI and that ordeal has ended.  It is not known at this time whether monies have been recovered and the perpetrators identified.  Hopefully, the victim will have satisfaction and restitution at the conclusion of this scam.

The FBI and US military have issued Security Awareness bulletins related to cyber theft and scams.  Some of the tips they suggest are …

  1. Never send money to a person asking for help with transportation costs, communication fees or medical care.
  2. Don’t send money or ship property to a third party. Often the company may exist, but isn’t part of the scam.
  3. The person claims a lack of support or services for service personnel overseas.
  4. Only communicates by social media or email.  It is also stated that military personnel will most likely have an email address ending with “.mil.”  High probability that a person is not in military if they can’t provide one.
  5. Communications contain grammatical or language errors.
  6. If reached through social media, does the account have many photos or followers?  Do the postings, if any, get many comments?

There are ways to report impostors on various social media platforms.  As an example, here is a link to the Facebook Help Center and the steps to take in reporting a fake account.  Additionally, here is the link to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) with details on crime prevention tips.  It also includes a webpage where Internet crime complaints can be submitted.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this month’s newsletter.  Have a wonderful May!