Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Lesson Worth A $1000

With the world technolgy now available to us, we can connect to family and friends anywhere in the world and update them of what's happening to us on the other side of the globe. In seconds we can download photos online and share it with our love ones wherever they are in this planet. To me the most positive thing about being in the this social network is I was able to reconnect with friends, classmates and relatives that I haven't had any contact for many, many years.

But while there are great things that these networks have brought into our lives, there are also risks and dangers that come with it. The clear and present dangers associated with social networking include data theft and virus.

The most prevalent danger though often involves online predators who claim to be someone that they are not. I will tell you the story how my friend Judy lost her $1000 in less than 10 minutes on Christmas day because of these predators.

I've met Judy more than two years ago when we were introduced to each other by my friend Monica. She is a very nice, caring, bubbly soul that has a big heart. To make the story short, we became good friends. I haven't seen her for more than 3 months and last January 26, we ran into each other in our favorite nail salon. And she told me how they were robbed of one grand on Christmas day. On December 25 at about noon time, their son, a marine and is base in San Diego, California called them that he was in New York with some friends but  got into trouble and is in jail and needed to post a $1000 bail so he could go out of jail or else he would be in trouble with the Marines. They heard him talking to a cop trying to make arrangements for his bail. He told them that he will give the phone to the cop in charge of his case so they could talk to him. The cop told them all the details about their son's arrest. He told them the place where the incident took place and he gave them his name. Because Judy and Marvin (her husband), a retired colonel in the US Airforce were so upset and in shock for what allegedly happened to their son, they asked the cop how they could bail the son out because they didn't want him to sleep in jail. The cop gave them the bank account number where they could send the money. And while Marvin was still on the phone talking to their son, Judy was already transferring $1000 online. They told their son that the money was already sent and they asked him to check with the cop to verify. But the son hanged up the phone and when they tried to call again, they could not contact the number anymore. Only then they realized that there was something wrong. So they tried calling the Marine base in San Diego to check their son.  Of course he's there and never left the base. Their one grand is gone. It turned out that the "son" who called them was someone who had their information taken from her social network page. I really feel sorry for Marvin and Judy because they are nice people. But this is a very classic example of predators using our online information. Judy and Marvin figured out that these bad guys got their information from Judy's facebook account where she has all the family pictures and personal details like names, schools, b-days and addresses. Right after that incident, she edited her privacy settings. But she paid a high price for that lesson.

I understand how it feels to hear that one of our family members or anybody close to us is in trouble and desperately needs our immediate help. But we also need to verify the situation first before sending money or any kind of help. It won't take so much time to do it. It's just a phone call away. These bad guys might be smarter than most of us, but with awareness and calmness on our part will save us a lot of heartbreak.

I'm really grateful to somebody who is an expert in security who keeps reminding me and warned me about divulging my personal information online. As he said, there are predators, pedophiles, and all kinds of bad people and criminals just waiting to have a chance to get our information and before we knew it, our bank account is empty and our family members like our daughters, sisters, brothers are in danger just because of that information we released online. By expanding the information we are placing on social web sites, we are making the job of social engineering easier for the bad guys.

As we can see, the world is getting high tech, and the bad guys are not standing still and let the world pass them by. They are keeping up and as I said, they are smarter than most of us too.

Just use common sense and listen to your inner voice. Learn to know when something doesn't feel right about the conversation or action taking place.

By being aware of our cyber surroundings and who we are talking to, we can minimize the possibility to be their victim. And hopefully, we should be able to still enjoy social networking.

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