Secret Service Warns Of Putting Too Much Info Online

By Ginger Allen, CBS 11 News

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Secret Service has issued a warning against revealing intimate details on social networking websites, which are often prowled by thieves and criminals.

“The criminals monitor these websites,” said U.S. Secret Service Special Agent David Bentz.

Bentz heads the North Texas Electronic Crimes Task Force and said he sees this every day. He said people do not realize how much personal information they are putting online in the public view.

Donnie Palmer is the Executive Vice President of The Texas Bankers Association. Palmer trains banks to watch for this type of fraud.

“I can picture someone sitting in an easy chair dialing for dollars,” said Palmer, who then had a personal story to share.

“It started out with a phone call one Monday morning where my friend’s grandmother received a call from what you thought was her grandson,” he said.

The caller said he was arrested for drinking, driving, and causing an accident while on vacation and needed her to wire money overseas to pay restitution. The “grandchild” claimed to be sick, for an excuse as to why he did not sound like himself on the phone. He also was convincing because of what he knew.

“They knew very intimate details about the family,” said Palmer. “They also said something about he was between jobs. He happened to have time off.”

The hacker did his research on Palmer’s grandchild and knew all about him.

“The issue is significant here in North Texas,” Bentz said.

The U.S. Secret Service said criminals are now stalking social networking sites. The agency receives almost daily phone calls concerning these crimes, Bentz said.

“The criminals will actually do their homework about that child, how old they are, where they live, cell phone number, where they went to college. They have all the data they need then follow up with an email or a phone call,” Bentz said.

Secret Service officials said this was once called phishing. Criminals would send out mass emails in an attempting to catch private information and possibly give the hacker access to the computer. Agents said the hackers then decided to “spear-phish.”

This involved the same method, but hackers learned to target particular groups of people. But now, agents say the latest attack relies on research on social networking sites. And the theme continues: This is referred to as “whaling.”

In Palmer’s case, the hackers caught his personal friend – a wealthy individual –who almost fell for the scam and sent the money to the criminals overseas. The U.S. Secret Service commends Western Union for stopping this transaction and many others just before the money wiring is finalized.

“If we believe it to be fraudulent we will stop it,” said Denise Jaworksi, Vice President Global Consumer Protection Program at Western Union.

Western Union now has a nationwide campaign to stop this social networking stalking scam.

“If we know an elderly or anybody at that matter is sending money to a foreign country, we do have the power to intervene, “Jaworksi said.

Western Union representatives in North Texas questioned and then stopped Palmer’s friend from going forward with her wiring transaction. She went home and discussed it more with family and friends and realized she was almost robbed.

Southlake resident Jacque Robson is thankful her family, especially her grandparents, did not fall for the scam. But she was worried they may. Robson’s friend received a similar email saying she had been robbed while she was vacationing in London.

“I was completely surprised at the message I received from people saying, “Are you ok? Are you ok? Do you need money?’” Robson said.

Now Robson and everyone on her contact list know to be careful what they disclose on places like Facebook and Twitter. Her account has been targeted once, and she doesn’t want criminals to try to “catch” them again after doing more homework on Robson and friends and family.

She’s been warned that hackers could try to use any personal information she posts on social networking accounts.

“When they start figuring out your personal (information) and spewing that information back…you could see how it could happen,” Robson said.

Looking at a Facebook page, Palmer said, “that’s just a goldmine of information.”

Palmer’s elderly friend is still uneasy.

“They are still in fear.” She told him, “If they know this about my family, what else do they know?”

The North Texas Secret Service says hackers get into social media accounts after clicking on a link, pop up, email, or a website that allows them to send malware into the computer. Then they can choose whom to research to make their stories more convincing.

Agents provide this advice on how not to get hooked by phishing:

Ensure that Windows automatic updates are turned-on.
Use a robust anti-virus software and keep it up to date (all-day).
Keep all “Flash Players” updated.
Ensure e-mail clients have Spam Filters enabled.

And, they remind you:

Never email personal or financial information
Question suspicious emails and delete them. A sender can always resend.
Do not acknowledge a pop-up message – certainly not one that asks for personal or financial information.

If you have become the victim of phishing, contact your local police department.

Comments

One Comment

  1. Jan Wallace says:

    This same thing happened to me last week. Someone hacked my email account, changed the password and sent an email to all my contacts saying I was in London and had been robbed, and the hacker also ask for $1200. Wouldn’t it of been a miracle that I could of remembered all those email addresses? I can guarantee you that I don’t twitter and I don’t do facebook either. I wouldn’t dream of posting I was leaving town on the intetner. Thank goodness none of my contacts sent the hacker any money!

  2. MARY SIDES says:

    MY DEBIT STOLEN DOUBLED AFTER 5 YEARS
    ON MY PHONE 6 YEARS CONTACT STALKER COLLAGE ID THEFT
    ANGELA HOPE HELPED POLICE IN APARTMENTS SAY CAN DO ANYTHING TO YOU THEY WANT AND MANAGERS GET A NEW CAR NEW CLOTHES ON ME DRUG COOK AND RAINN WOMEN CENTER BUT SAFE HAVEN HAS HELPED THE MOST NOW I WANT PROTECTED MOVE RESTRAINING ORDERS AND THE EQUITEMENT FOR BUGS AND CAMERAS

    THIS WAS MASTERCARD DIRECT EXPRESS EVERY BODY SAYS THEY HELP BUT NO

  3. MARY SIDES says:

    GINGER ALLEN:still no help i want them off the property HUD IS TO FINE BAD MANAGERS 2,000. EA
    I KNOW THIS NEWS LETTER ABOVE IS TRUE DSL U-VERSE ATT CHARTER DISH BLOCKBUSTER ELECTRIC THERE TALKING JUST KNOWING CAR INFO TALKING24/7 ARE WERE I’M AT…6 LONG YRS CODE 8& RAINN ONLY TIME ON FACE BOOK TO VOTE FOR MORE MONEY FOR THEM BUT MORE HELP FOR RAPED AND LIVES REPAIRED THEY STOPPED POLICE REPORTS TO ATT GENERAL SO I COULD NOT GET HELP AND MOVE I NEED CAMERA’S OUTSIDE AND IN FOR BUG THEY HAVE POLICE SCANNERS TOO LISTEN ON PHONE FROM THE ONE I PAY FOR APT 425

  4. MARY SIDES says:

    DRUG COOKS OUT OF APARTMENTS MAKE TOO MUCH FOR COMM SERVICE OR LIVE IN RENT CONTROLLED APARTMENTS
    HARASSMENT WHOLE FAMILY
    6 YRS 6 MOVES POLICE JUST SAY MOVE HUD SAID ONLY DO WHAT POLICE SAY BUT I’M PAYING FOR ALL THE MOVES AND MY STUFF SOFA COVERED WITH THIS FUMES FROM DRUG COOKING
    MORE AND MORE MOVE IN TO APARTMENTS HOPE TO BE SAFE WE NOT HOUSING PROMISED TO HELP SAME THING MAY 1 YR I’LL WAIT UNTIL 3-12
    NO CODE 8 HELP I’VE AS HUD SECTION 8 PROTECTED MOVE PROTECTED LIFE
    5 YEARS NOW..ASSISTED LIVING BY FAMILY ARMS NECK CAR ACCIDENT 90
    I WOLD NOT PUT IT OUT IN THE PUBLIC IF I WERE BEING HELPED
    USED DOCTOR APPOINTED AID EMAIL HARASSED ALL STATE HIS CAR INSURANCE STOLEN HIS MAIL TOO NOW THEY HARASSED MY DOCTOR’S HEALTH FIRST OVER 3 YEARS 05-08 TOLD MEDICAID COULD BE GETTING MEDS FROM MY ACCOUNT

  5. MARY SIDES says:

    GINGER ALLEN STILL NEED HELP WITH STALKERS TARRANT HOUSING PROMISES HELP 24/7 MATTHEW HUNTER -BRYAN ID THEFT TEAM COLLAGE
    AMERICANS FEAR THEIR HERE AND HURTING PEOPLE IF THESE PEOPLE WANTED THEY LISTEN ON ALL ACCOUNTS I WANT THEM IS JAIL MY DOCTOR SAID OLD FORM OF APARTMENT THEFT
    MORE PEOPLE IN APARTMENTS EVERYDAY PLEASE HELP
    TEACHERS GO 4 DAYS?? NOT LOSE JOBS- ALL OLD DRUG CASES THEY GET THE MONEY

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