Social Media: How to stay safe online

Are you a Facebook junkie? Be careful who you befriend.

It’s not news that social media allows people to tweak their image – more than a bit. But while photoshopping and carefully-posed “spontaneous” shots are simply amusing, police and NetSafe have issued a warning over fake Facebook profiles, saying that the use of hacked or fake Facebook profiles is on the rise with growing numbers of people being deceived and often losing large sums of money.

In one of the latest incidents, Sir Ralph Norris discovered three fake Facebook profiles using his name, and it’s not the first time that one of New Zealand’s most renowned business leaders has experienced the fraudulent use of his profile.

Towards the end of last year it was discovered that a criminal using Sir Ralphs’ name on Facebook, had successfully convinced at least two people to part with large sums of money.

“I am hugely frustrated that this is happening again. People are trading on my name in an attempt to make victims out of good people. I have never had a social media account and would implore people to verify who they are speaking to before they decide to part with their hard earned money,” Sir Ralph said.

Detective Senior Sergeant Iain Chapman of the Auckland Financial Crime Unit said: “Scammers are organised criminals. They do everything they can to appear legitimate. This includes using the names of well-known people in an effort to gain trust.

“Unfortunately this is a problem that is not going to go away and people need to become more vigilant when conducting their business online.”

Buying online: safety tips

We’re all shopping online – or it seems that way, anyway.

According to the most recent BNZ Online Retail Sales Index, total online retail spending in January 2016 was up 15% compared to the same month a year ago and hearteningly, online sales at local merchants were up 11% on January last year. For the fourth consecutive month, this outpaced the growth in spending at physical stores.

Overall, online retail spending for the 12 months ended 31 December 2015 was equivalent to 6.8% of reported retail sales (or 10.1% of reported retail sales if the grocery and liquor sectors are excluded).

Combine a love of online shopping with the ability for online fraud, though, and there is the potential for financial loss. Some tips to stay safe online include:

1. Know who you are dealing with

If you’re not buying from a major retailer, do some research before you hand over payment. Heading straight to a website you know and trust is safer than Googling for a result.  If you’re in any doubt, check for external user reviews about the website on forums.

2. Only use secure payments

Paypal not available? Why not? Do you really want to hand over your credit card details? Think carefully before you do. Ensure that you only pay for items using a secure payment service—look for a URL starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol. Requests for wire transfer, international funds transfer or electronic currency should ring big alarm bells.

3. Know exactly what you are buying

A picture might tell a thousand word, but sometimes you need more – so make sure you ask plenty of questions about the item you’re buying so that you know exactly what you’re going to receive.

4. Don’t assume you know who is selling the item

Sure, the “seller” might look like a lovely person – but there are millions of photos available online and it’s easy to do a quick cut and paste. That terrific set of golf clubs that look like a total bargain might not really belong to Sir Ralph Norris after all…

“Use Google to your advantage – if someone is using a fake profile it is highly likely there will be commentary on the internet about it. Remember, if you are being asked by someone online to send or handle money on their behalf, you are most likely being scammed,” said Senior Sergeant Iain Chapman.

NetSafe Operations Manager Lee Chisholm said: “With more than 1.5 billion Facebook users, the platform has become a high profile target for various scams and we’d encourage people to research any offer that’s presented to them.

“We regularly receive reports of fake profiles and pages being used to promote anything from free airline flights to suspect medical and beauty trial offers.

Accounts can also be compromised and used to scam friends and family so it pays to review your privacy settings, be aware of what information you share online and protect your account with a strong, unique password.”

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