Monday, June 4, 2012

The Dangers of Social Media

I haven’t done a blog post in forever. This one took a while because of family issues and the fact that I wanted to be careful of how I worded it. As I said before, you can’t implicate someone without proof or you can get yourself in a whole world of trouble. So, now I think I’m ready. Shall we proceed? Yes, indeed.

Social media can be a good thing (you have the world at your fingertips). At the same time, it can open you up to a host of criminals that prey upon unsuspecting victims. My last blog post was about my computer that got hacked. The criminals inserted spyware into my system. This post is about some of the ways they operate.

In my last post, I also mentioned that my hackers have fake accounts everywhere…and I mean everywhere. I’m sure they number into the hundreds. Why the fake accounts? To get thousands of followers at their fingertips.

For example, let’s say you create a quote account, Zen Zenobia, which specializes in disseminating new-age quotes to center yourself. On Twitter, these hackers will have their already existing fake accounts mention this account so it can gain new followers. They may even set up a Facebook page for the account and a website (there are tons of websites that these hackers have set up, but I’ll speak more on that later).

By getting other accounts to mention Zen Zenobia, Zen’s followers can skyrocket into the thousands. I suspect there are hundreds of accounts that are controlled by the same hackers. What next? Zen now has thousands of followers clicking on her links and downloading things that may have spyware programs attached to them. (It’s a known fact that cyber criminals often tag along onto legitimate programs to infect a host’s computer.) After amassing their followers, these criminals now have a gaggle of people they can prey upon. Not to mention the fact that the more followers they have, the more followers they will gain because people want to be in on the next big thing.

The hackers set up blogs and other websites as another way to scam unsuspecting victims. I saw one blog that claimed to have a Word Press plugin, which may very well be legit. But let’s say that the hacker attached spyware to that Word Press plugin. Next thing you know, your personal information is at their fingertips. They can look into your e-mails, steal your credit card information and then infect others in your address book. By the way, they even have a website catering to black women that has almost 50,000 followers. Once again, they are everywhere, doing everything they can to generate money by any means necessary.

Another thing these accounts do once they amass followers is ask for donations for this cause or that. The cause may or may not be legit. In most cases, they will tag along on a legitimate cause like breast cancer awareness in order to appear trustworthy/altruistic. But what the scoundrel is really concerned about is scamming people out of their hard-earned money. For example, one fake account asked for $1 donations from their followers for “operating costs”. Ahem *coughs*. Scam alert. They may even have a “contest” to choose the next best independent novel. But what they will do is have a $25 contest fee. At $25 a pop, imagine how much money they’re raking in.   

The social media accounts in question also stress that you share their FB page or Twitter account with your friends and family. And we all know why: to get more followers. I have seen these hacker accounts constantly offer prizes so you can share their FB page with people in your network. It’s like leading animals to the slaughterhouse. Because of us—and because we have shared their information—they have a host of people they can prey upon.

As I said in my last post, I have seen publishers create fake accounts to lend prestige to their authors in order to sell more books. They even go so far as to acquire manuscripts and steal pictures of people in order to create a whole new persona to sell books. Whose pictures and manuscripts they are stealing is beyond me, but I know it’s happening. Let’s say this publisher has 50 books they are selling under various labels. Again, imagine how much money they are raking in by creating these personas. These scammers will do anything to achieve their mission of defrauding people.

I believe the same group of hackers is all over the Internet with their fake accounts, their fake websites, etc. trying to figure out novel ways to defraud people and steal money. Let me reiterate: They try to gain prestige for their accounts and websites by amassing thousands of followers so they can look like the next big thing. Many times, the victims have no idea what happened to them and don’t even realize their computer system is compromised. Others, like me, get the feeling that something is not quite right.

Because I began to realize that these hackers set up business ventures (i.e. publishing companies, editing businesses, etc) to hide what they’re really about, they came after me. They tried to sabotage my self-publishing venture by attacking me with a fake account that posted a scathing review of my novel. They also changed my social media posts so I could appear incompetent or deleted them altogether. It took a year before I realized what was going on. (Read my other blog post "The Case Against TC" to find out what happened.)

This hacking ring is bigger than me and my little old computer. Who knows how long they have been operating and hacking computers. I really hope someone brings them down, but why do I suspect that’s not going to happen? It hasn’t happened yet and law enforcement is behind the times in dealing with cyber crimes. The only thing I can do is hope that Karma pays them a visit, that something takes them down. I actually feel like I’m the protagonist in a movie…”War Games” or something like that. You know, the one who knows that evil exists but no one believes them. Le sigh. Until they are taken down, be careful out there, folks. Someone is always watching.

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