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Philippines Online Criminals Profiting from Social Media

Philippines Online Criminals Profiting from Social Media

One of the main resources for online criminals today is social media, mainly because it has become indispensable for a great majority of the people in the world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other social platforms are the greatest banks of personal information we have ever seen and criminals know very well how to take advantage of all the information they contain.

“We have seen online crime rising in the Philippines, and have witnessed how criminal groups gather in small offices to either find vulnerable social media profiles or to create fake ones” says Joseph McClain, Director of Surveillance Investigations at Philippine PI investigations.

The Philippines has turned into a hot spot for social media fraud. Groups of thieves have organized themselves to build databases of possible targets for romance scam, identity theft and extortion out of people´s social media profiles. According to McClain, several surveillance investigations in Manila and Cebu have led the investigators to these “workplaces” where all the information is gathered, stored and organized, and then finally sold through the black market. In some cases, the same criminals take care of luring the victims to send money through romance scam schemes or extortion.

Why is Social Media such a powerful tool for crime?

The great majority of people do not realize the amount of information that can be obtained from a social media profile. If you actually combine several profiles for the same person (for those who are users of several social and dating platforms) there is even more personal data that can be retrieved. The information can go from simple things like an address to other very personal things like financial status, family, any particular interests, etc. Once a criminal has built a profile of you, they will know where and how to attack.  Don’t be an open book.  Protect your information and share less.

For instance, an online scammer knows if someone is religious out of their shares, and will use religion as an excuse to get close. A married victim or someone with a high rank position at work will most likely be lured into having a one time “adventure” of cybersex, they will be secretly recorded and then blackmailed. Sextortion is not new in the Philippines, but it is getting worse every day. The important lesson to learn here is that victims are not selected randomly, but are in fact chosen as a result of studying social media profiles.  The more you post, the more you are at risk.

How can you protect yourself?

The only 100% effective method is to avoid using social media and online dating at all. But being realistic, everyone enjoys meeting new people online and being in touch with friends and loved ones. So there are some tips you can follow to decrease your chances of being a victim.

The first step is to check your online profiles and analyze what information can be used against you. Delete all personal data, all references to your financial status (like photos of your home, car, yacht, etc), and make sure everything you share is public information that won’t identify you. Check your privacy settings and set everything you can so that only your family-friend circle can see.

Do not accept invitations from strangers, and if you do meet someone online that you are interested in, hire a professional investigator to conduct a Philippines background check investigation as soon as possible. You will want to know sooner rather than later if this person is a criminal.

Finally, do not engage in cybersex with a person you have never met, never share personal or intimate photos online, and do not trust anyone who you know online only. You do not know who is really on the other side of the computer until a proper verification is done by professionals.

Have you met someone online?  Contact us today for a free quote.

C. Wright
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