Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Monitoring personal info to prevent scams

An astute reader pointed out some information missing in a Monday story about current scams being working the area. The story described so-called “grandparent scams,” in which suspects use real family information to convince their victims to send money out of the country via wire transfers.

Tom Burker Sr. of Concord, himself a grandparent, said many people unwittingly open themselves up to becoming victims simply by not being sufficiently careful with their personal information.

“I read your article with great interest this morning. One thing I was hoping you would mention in your article is the impact of social media (i.e. Facebook) on these scams. People post too much information and do not control their privacy settings correctly. A scammer can gather information regarding what part of the country a potential victim lives in, photos and names of family and friends, pets, surroundings, vacation plans, family events, etc. Grandparents are using social media to better connect with their grand children these days.

“Armed with all of this personal information, a scammer can sound very convincing over the phone,” Burker wrote.

Facebook explains its privacy settings here. In short, public profiles and public status updates may be viewed by anyone, even complete strangers, regardless of whether they have a Facebook profile themselves. Other social media and online networking sites have other privacy settings specific to those sites.

Scam artists need relatively little information to make their scams work, law enforcement officers told me for the original story. And, as with the social media privacy settings, victims may unwittingly provide scam artists with the clues they need to craft a convincing story.

The key, officials agree, is prevention and awareness. Never give out personal information unless you are confident you know who is getting it and how it’s being utilized.

Rachel Jackson | email Rachel | @nh_rachel


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