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The Financial Dangers of Social Networking


As a salesperson and author Janet Spur knows the power of social media. But she didn't realize just how powerful it can really be until someone figured out her Facebook password and hacked her account. "This happened 7 months ago and my heart is still beating a lot thinking about it," says Janet. While Janet was at home on the North Shore last July, a hacker was in a Facebook chartroom, telling her friends she was overseas and in need big help. The hacker had researched Janet on line and had enough information to make Janet's friend think it was really her. "They started chatting with her saying I was at a writers conference in London, that I was held up at gunpoint that all my money was taken and my credit cards that I needed money to get home and that I didn't even have a plane ticket," she says. The friend -who lives in Brookline- thought Janet was in real trouble so she wired 9 hundred dollars to London via Western Union. With a fake id created with information Janet posted her Facebook account the hackers collected the cash. "They now see it as another avenue, to scam money from people and scam anything they can from people," Janet says.

Boston based social media guru Patrick O'Malley - who goes by the handle “617 Patrick” teaches social media skills and safety to clients all over the country. He says sites like Facebook are gold mines for scam artists when people post to much personal information. 350 million Facebookers world wide means a lot of potential victims. "If you think about what your bank asks for when they want information it's typically your social security number, your mothers maiden name and birth date, well your birth date is typically in your Facebook profile, and sometimes they can find your mothers maiden name...especially if she is a friend of yours," Patrick says.

Scams are one example of how sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin can be hazardous to your wallet, and while there are many more, most do not involve crooks and con artists. Many times people on social networking sites end up costing themselves. Take pro football player Larry Johnson. The all pro running back lost a three hundred thousand dollar pay check and ultimately his job with the Kansas City chiefs after he posted an anti-gay slur on twitter.

Another person who ran into trouble in 140 characters or less is 22-year-old Connor Riley, aka, the Cisco fatty. The San Francisco woman tweeted: "Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work." Unfortunately for Connor she forgot to make the tweet private and a Cisco employee saw it and replied: "Who is the hiring manager. I'm sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web." The post went viral and Connor riley is now a Twitterverse sensation for all the wrong reasons. "You have to realize anything you put on the internet could conceivably be seen by your employer, by your enemies, by your grandparents, your grandchildren and maybe for years to come," says Patrick.

Keep in mind the person you think you're talking to or getting information from may not actually be that person. And if your personal information is public – everyone can see it. Janet Spur suggests some ways to better protect yourself when using social media. "For a person to take off there birthday, any email address, and don't say your going away," says Janet. She says she's learned a lot from her experience, especially that not everyone on social networking sites - are really your friends.




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