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Protect your identity from social networking scams

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Popular social networks have allowed us to electronically keep in touch with our family members and friends through new feeds, blogs, tweets and photographs. Social networks have become a place to share our personal information with the world.

Social networks have also become an easy target for cyber criminals to evolving in to their main source of obtaining personal information.

Many registered users often either ignore or fail to realize content they post can present real-world consequences. Users should practice careful habits and take in to consideration what they are posting in order to avoid becoming a victim of social network scams.

Recently, the Department of Defense announced changes to computer-use policies to allow access to social networking sites from unclassified government computers, calling for extra caution.

While most interactions on these websites are not meant to pose a threat, dangers still exist.

I thought I had heard about most Internet hoaxes and threats until I learned about a new type of fraud from a classmate. She told me a daunting story about a recent cyber crime that happened to her boyfriend's grandmother.

His grandmother received a call from someone who identified himself as her grandson. The perpetrator said he, his father and uncle were stranded because their car broke down, in Wisconsin, and they needed her to wire money. His grandmother said she asked questions about the predicament they were in, hesitated for a bit about wiring the funds, but then decided them to send the more than $950.

The whole incident turned out to be a scam. Her grandson and two sons were not in Wisconsin and did not make that phone call.

So where did the perpetrator get his information and how did he know all their names?

They concluded that someone obtained their personal information from a social network which has a feature that allows people to hyper-link relatives to one another. Additionally, they think the person behind the criminal activity obtained their phone number from the site.

After-the-fact, the grandmother said the phone call appeared to be legit because the caller knew their individual information.

That kind of information is a cinch to acquire, and it would be easy to pose as someone else.

The thought of someone doing this is really disturbing because it can happen to any registered users.

As a rule of thumb, I don't post any information on my social network site that I wouldn't announce to a room full of strangers.

So, the next time you are contemplating about posting something on your site, ask yourself, "Would I want the whole world to know this?"

Ensure that your information is kept discrete and safe. Be careful about what you post, because essentially anyone can read it.