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Nine Major Ways Criminals Use Facebook

1. Hacking Accounts

When criminals hack a Facebook account, they typically use one of several available “brute force” tools, Grayson Milbourne, Webroot’s Manager of Threat Research for North America, told 24/7 Wall St. in an interview. These tools cycle through a common password dictionary, and try commonly used names and dates, opposite hundreds of thousands of different email IDs. Once hacked, an account can be commandeered and used as a platform to deliver spam, or — more commonly — sold. Clandestine hacker forums are crawling with ads offering Facebook account IDs and passwords in exchange for money. In the cyber world, information is a valuable thing.

2. Commandeering Accounts

A more direct form of identity theft, commandeering occurs when the criminal logs on to an existing user account using an illegally obtained ID and password. Once they are online, they have the victim’s entire friend list at their disposal and a trusted cyber-identity. The impostor can use this identity for a variety of confidence schemes, including the popular, London scam in which the fraudster claims to be stranded overseas and in need of money to make it home. The London scam has a far-higher success rate on Facebook — and specifically on commandeered accounts — because there is a baseline of trust between the users and those on their friends list.

3. Profile Cloning

Profile cloning is the act of using unprotected images and information to create a Facebook account with the same name and details of an existing user. The cloner will then send friend requests to all of the victim’s contacts. These contacts will likely accept the cloner as a friend since the request appears to be from someone they’re familiar with. Once accepted, the crook has access to the target’s personal information, which they can use to clone other profiles or to commit fraud. As Grayson Milbourne puts it, “Exploiting a person’s account and posturing as that person is just another clever mechanism to use to extract information.” Perhaps what’s scariest about this kind of crime is its simplicity. Hacking acumen is unnecessary to clone a profile; the criminal simply needs a registered account.

4. Cross-Platform Profile Cloning

Cross-platform profile cloning is when the cyber criminal obtains information and images from Facebook and uses them to create false profiles on another social-networking site, or vice versa. The principle is similar to profile cloning, but this kind of fraud can give Facebook users a false sense of security because their profile is often cloned to a social platform that they might not use. The result is that this kind of fraud may also take longer to notice and remedy.

5. Phishing

Phishing on Facebook involves a hacker posing as a respected individual or organization and asking for personal data, usually via a wall post or direct message. Once clicked, the link infects the users’ computers with malware or directs them to a website that offers a compelling reason to divulge sensitive information. A classic example would be a site that congratulates the victims for having won $1,000 and prompts them to fill out a form that asks for a credit card and Social Security number. Such information can be used to perpetrate monetary and identity fraud. Grayson Milbourne of Webroot, also explained that spearphishing is becoming increasingly common, a practice that uses the same basic idea but targets users through their individual interests.