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Losing money on sites like Facebook and Twitter

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Sites like Facebook and Twitter may be free to use, but we found that some can be costly. People are losing cash on the sites left and right.

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 seven months ago, and my heart is still beating a lot thinking about it,” she said.

While Janet was at home on the North Shore last July, a hacker was on Facebook chat telling her friend she was overseas and in need of help. The hacker had researched Janet online 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. I needed money to get home and that I didn't even have a plane ticket,” she said.

The friend, who lives in Brookline, thought Janet was in real trouble. She wired $9,000 to London via Western Union. The hackers collected the cash with a fake ID that they made based on information from her Facebook account.

“They now see it as another avenue to scam money from people and scam anything they can from people,” said Boston-based social media guru Patrick O’Malley. He goes by the handled 617patrick.

O’Malley teaches social media skills and safety to clients all over the country. He says sites like Facebook are gold mines for scam artists. Three hundred and fifty million Facebookers is 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 mother’s maiden name and birth date. Well, your birth date is typically in your Facebook profile, and sometimes they can find your mother’s maiden name, especially if she is a friend of yours,” said O’Malley.

Scams are one example of how sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be hazardous to your wallet. Many examples don’t involve crooks or con artists.

Take pro football player Larry Johnson. The all-pro running back lost $300,000 pay and ultimately his job with the Kansas City Chiefs after he posted an anti-gay slur on Twitter.

Another person ran into trouble in 140 characters or less. Connor Riley, 22, 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 now Connor is a Twitter 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,” said O’Reilly.

Janet Spur says she’s learned a lot from her experience. Not everyone on social networking sites are your friends.

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