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12 Awful Reasons Why Impostors Commit Social Media Identity Theft

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Imagine if someone used your name and image, or the name and logo of a business you own, to create a profile on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking website. Then they start posting blogs and sending out links while pretending to be you. They may contact your acquaintances, colleagues, or clients, or they may simply show up when others search for your name. Either way, their intentions are fraudulent. Establishing an online presence using someone else’s identity creates unlimited opportunities for a scammer.

Traditional phishing, in which scammers send a fake email that appears to come from a trusted entity, is no longer as successful as it used to be. So identity thieves are taking advantage of social networking sites to build a home base. Once established, they seem as legitimate as any other user. There are few, if any, checks and balances to prevent this.

Social media identity theft occurs for a number of reasons:

  1. An impersonator may be attempting to steal your clients or potential clients.
  2. He or she could be squatting on your name or brand, hoping to profit by selling it back to you or preventing you from using it.
  3. They could be criminal hackers posting infected links that, if clicked on, will infect the victim’s PC or network with a virus that gives hackers backdoor access.
  4. An impersonator may intentionally pose as you, and even blog as you, in order to damage your name or brand. Anything they say to the world that is libelous, defamatory, or just plain wrong hurts your reputation and can even make you the target of a lawsuit.
  5. He or she may be using your identity to harass someone you nkow.
  6. The impersonator may wish to harass you, perhaps as revenge over a percieved slight or because you sold them a defective product or service.
  7. They may wish to use a name or brand that has leverage, such as a celebrity or Fortune 500 company, as a form of social engineering, to obtain priveledged access.
  8. If you or your business sell products or services, identity thieves might pose as you and offer deals with links to spoofed websites, in order to extract credit cards numbers.
  9. They may pose as a government entity for the purpose of extracting data and committing new account fraud.
  10. An impostor may be obsessed with you or your brand, and simply want to be associated with you. Posing as you could yield attention and satisfaction.
  11. They could be parodying you or your brand, by creating a tongue in cheek website that might be funny and obvious, but will most likely not be funny to you.
  12. They could be posing as you to elicit contact from others for the purposes of a relationship, sexual or otherwise, either in person or virtually. A young man was recently caught posing as an attractive girl in his school. He contacted guys in his class through a fake Facebook account and requested naked photos of them. When he revealed who he was, he used the incriminating photos to extort sex from them.

Social media is just a baby. All of the above stems from real world examples over the past few years. Unfortunately, this list is going to keep growing. Varieties of fraud that can occur via social media are only up to the imagination of the thief. Submit your own findings. Let’s hear what other whacked out social media identity thieves are doing.

To prevent social media identity theft, register all your officers, company names and branded products on every social media site you can find to prevent Twitter squatting and cybersquatting. You can do this manually or by using a very cost effective service called Knowem.com.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. See him discussing identity theft on YouTube. (Disclosures)

About the Author
ROBERT SICILIANO, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds. His "tell it like it is" style is sought after by major media outlets, executives in the C-Suite of leading corporations, meeting planners, and community leaders to get the straight talk they need to stay safe in a world in which physical and virtual crime is commonplace. Siciliano is accessible, real, professional, and ready to weigh in and comment at a moment's notice on breaking news.

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