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Facebook scammers use voice-imitation to prey on users’ relatives


Image by Don Hankins, licensed under Creative Commons

Facebook scammers are getting smarter, using photos, videos and other available profile information to imitate users and prey on their relatives.

Last year alone, they got $100 million out of ordinary Americans by calling up the relatives of Facebook users. They are now studying voices from posted videos, researching photos and employment information, and are now able to convince people that they’re getting a call for help from their beloved grandson, niece or other trusted family member.

My grandmother called to alert me to a piece she saw on ABC News this evening. You can see the techniques they’re using to imitate voices. Absolutey horrifying.

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The video says at the end to use a “code word”. I think this is an excellent idea, but there are many other steps you can take.

Divide your facebook friends into lists. If you play games or participate in certain online communities on Facebook, you should keep those people in a separate group. Adjust your privacy settings so that these lists do not have access to  your address, your relatives or your photos. You can also move these people to a group called “Restricted,” which will allow those users only to see posts you make public.

Do not make your photos and videos public. This really is a necessity and is best for your safety as well as others’. Remember that once it’s out there, you can never get it back.

This is another VERY important thing:

Never, ever, EVER publicly answer “fun quizzes” or other things in which you give out personally identifiable information. In addition to your address, Social Security number and phone number, even things like the street you grew up on, your mother’s maiden name, the city you were born in, the name of your first pet or your favorite teacher can all be used to get into your accounts. It’s best to keep this stuff hidden from everyone. Rule of thumb: If it’s a question you’re asked to access your bank account, don’t answer it on Facebook or anywhere else where the world could possibly see it.

Use pseudonyms. I have a very good reason for not putting my full name on this blog, but my primary reason is privacy. If you’ll notice, I also use pseudonyms for my relatives to protect them. It’s good for potential employers, and also good for safety and privacy.

Seniors and the elderly have been among the largest targets of scams for decades. Do let your loved ones know the dangers of scammers on Facebook and elsewhere. My grandmother told me these scams are the biggest reason she’s not interested in the Internet. Honestly? I don’t blame her one bit.

The FBI has some excellent resources on scams. Be mindful and be careful out there!

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