Wallingford, CT (PressExposure) February 17, 2009 -- Perhaps it was just a matter of time: Cyber-criminals have moved to popular social networking sites to spread viruses and steal usersâ identities.
Sites like Facebook and MySpace have become fertile ground for hackers and scammers to lure unsuspecting users into downloading computer viruses and divulging personal information.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti, says scammers have found a new platform from which to do damage.
âAs of December, Facebook had an estimated 150 million active users of all ages, many of whom are unaware that there are people on the same site trying to corrupt their computers and steal their identities. This is a wakeup call for all users, and especially, parents because of the vulnerability of young people on social network sites.â
The popularity of social networking sites has grown exponentially in recent years as a venue for finding and reconnecting with old friends we know and trust. Better Business Bureau, however, warns that scammers know they can take advantage of that trust by posing as friends, family members and co-workers in order to commit cyber crime.
Common social networking schemes include:
âFriend in Distressâ Scam Facebook users may receive an e-mail from a friend saying they are in dire trouble â and need money wired to them. The recipient is unaware their friendâs account has been hacked and that the message was sent by cyber criminals who ask that the friend wire them money. If the Facebook user wires the cash, they then discover their friend is safe, the e-mail was a scam and that there is no way of recovering the money.
Phishing Friends A particularly aggressive computer virus called âKoobfaceâ made the rounds on MySpace and recently hit users of Facebook. Users receive a message from a friend saying âYou look awesome in this video,â and which contains a hyperlink to an outside web site to view the video.
When the victim clicks on the link they are told they have to update the popular Internet browser plug-in Adobe Flash. Agreeing to the download installs the virus onto the victimâs computer and monitors Internet activity to potentially steal personal information. Victims of the Koobface virus have experienced considerable difficulty removing it, and in some cases, simply scrapped their computers.
Your BBB has some advice for staying safe on social networking sites:
Be wary of messages from friends or strangers that direct you to another web site via a hyperlink.
Before wiring money to a âfriend in distress,â users should attempt to contact the friend directly to confirm the situation. If that is not possible, BBB recommends asking a question to which only the friend would know the answer.
Keep important information private. While some social network sites allow the user to share phone numbers, birthdates, e-mail and postal addresses, BBB recommends against posting such information to prevent a cyber thief from gathering enough information to steal a userâs identity.
Be selective when accepting friend invitations. BBB warns it is best to decline a request for friendship from someone the user doesnât know.
More advice on staying safe online is available at http://www.bbb.org.