Friday, 22 November 2013

Is Social Media a Playground for Criminals?

Is Social Media a Playground for Criminals?

There's no denying that social media can be a good thing. It helps us to keep in touch with our friends, share opinions and even publicize our work. Many people have found new job opportunities, long-lost relatives and even the love of their lives via the power of social media. Yet this relatively new phenomenon has also led to an unprecedented rise in internet related crime and it would seem that the world of social media has in fact opened up a world of opportunity for criminals looking for victims. We have all heard the reports of internet related fraud and bullying via social media and these issues are worrying enough, but statistics also show a dangerous trend for stalkers, sex abusers and even serial killers using social media as a way to locate potential targets. With social media use on the rise and more and more people, particularly the younger generation, signing up to different sites every day, it is vital that we become aware of these crimes - and what we can do to protect ourselves.

Social Media Crime Statistics

An estimated eighty-one per cent of internet crime is currently related to a social media site. That's a scary statistic. It's also believed that around one million people become victims of some form of cyber crime every day. Although a large percentage of this is made up of crimes such as identity theft, fraud and internet scams, when it comes to the social media side of things, the crimes become even more serious. Up to thirty-three per cent of internet related sex crimes were in some way instigated through the use of a social networking site and indeed, sex crime is the most common social media related crime, all too often involving minors. Police believe that as many as half of recently convicted sex offenders have used social media to track down and/or get close to their intended victims.

When Internet Crime turns Physical

Burglary is another crime that is increasingly being aided by social media, as potential burglars use information posted by victims to determine when they are going to be away from home. An estimated fifty per cent of potential burglars use social media in this way, so what seems like an innocent comment to friends about an upcoming holiday can have sinister repercussions. Even violent crimes can be instigated on social media, and cyber-bullying can escalate into something far more physical. In Florida a young female victim of cyber bullying sustained serious injuries after the cyber bullies tracked her down and subjected her to a beating. They were later arrested for assault and the victim was compensated for her injuries, but of course for victims of such crime, such as no amount of compensation can ever truly be enough. In 2008 a young girl was shot by another girl after being hounded and threatened by her via social media. What seems to be at first a 'faceless' crime can clearly escalate into something far more violent.

Safety Tips for Preventing Social Media Crime

So how can you keep yourself safe on social media? With such shocking statistics it would be easy to assume that the best option would be to not engage with social media at all, but for many people in today's internet age this is neither practical nor desirable. Instead, taking sensible precautions when using social media can drastically reduce your chances of being a target for criminals prowling social media sites. Firstly, whatever social networking sites you belong to, familiarize yourself with their privacy and security settings and ensure that the personal settings on your profile are offering you maximum security on your site, so that as much of your information as possible is limited only to those you want to see it. Perhaps most importantly, be very selective with the information you post, regardless of your privacy settings. It is advisable not to include your address, date of birth, phone number and any photos that clearly show your house, place of work or favorite haunts. For teenage girls in particular, don't post provocative photos or accept 'friends' whose identity you are not completely sure of. Don't let your online friends know your every movement.

Although social media has given rise to related crime, it has however also proved useful in the tackling of that crime. Many law enforcement agencies are now active on social media sites, which can also provide another avenue for those anonymously wanting to report a crime. Undercover officers have used social media sites to lure and catch pedophiles and sex offenders, and other criminals have, somewhat ironically perhaps, been tracked down through their own social networking profiles.


Unknown said...

My life is actually a pretty open book, if someone wanted to find me, they could. That said, there is a reason for a shotgun by the door, a rifle behind the bedroom door a derringer very close at hand. :) Also why there are two very large English Mastiffs in the yard.

RJ Parker Publishing said...

People, more so young girls, are on Instagram Pheed and Vine taking pics and vids and not looking around them for telltale signs. Wearing team logos, company logos, a licence plate in the background or a land mark. Doing these "check ins" on various apps. Pin pointing their locations. But of course, their take is "it won't happen to me, that's just stuff you hear on the news about other kids". So so naive

Judy Thomas said...

It's quite scary how exposed people are to crimes of this sort. My daughters are on tumbler and facebook everyday and have many friends and I keep telling them to be very careful of what they post and who they trust.Even in a small country like New Zealand it does happen.