Woman Scams Victims by Getting Personal Info from Facebook

(Original story at the Straits Times here.)

Scammers’ tactics evolve as people catch on to what they are doing. A few years ago, my coworker’s Facebook account got hacked into and her password was changed. During the time that my friend was locked out of her account, the hacker signed on to the chat feature and asked her Facebook friends — I was one of them — to send money to “her” bank account as she was stuck in London after being robbed and left penniless.

I knew that my coworker wasn’t in London, and I contacted her through AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and asked her what that was about. She then told me that her account was hacked and she was locked out, and that I should not send money to “her.” Fortunately for my coworker, she got the access to her account back after contacting Facebook.

I believe that this particular type of scam is no longer common.

I recently signed up for a savings account at a local bank and opted for online banking. As part of their identity protection feature, the sign-on procedure required me to provide answers to some predetermined and pre-answered security questions, such as the name of my maternal grandfather and my high school mascot.

Guess what? Such information can be garnered from your Facebook profile and from Google searches, particularly if you’re one of those who use it as a means to keep track of the happenings in your life with the timeline feature. Of course, there are other features in place (such as your username and password) to keep your bank account and its contents secure, but those extra security features are rendered useless if the information is available online.

The bad news is this information might be used to scam your friends and relatives, as the following story shows.

Cheat dupes victims by getting personal details from Facebook

Published on Jan 11, 2012

By Fiona Low

Police have arrested a 22-year-old woman who is believed to be involved in at least seven cases of cheating.

Tan Si Ying, Tricia, who is unemployed, operated her scam by pretending to be her victims’ cousin. She would then say she needed money and ask for a loan. Preliminary investigations show that Tan got contact information about her victims through social networking site Facebook. She would trawl through the postings on their page to find out the names of their cousins.

Tan contacted her victims via SMS asking them for a loan urgently. She would also say that she had either lost or changed her handphone number to explain the unfamiliar number she was using, after which she would provide the victims a POSB bank account number for them to transfer the money to.

The seven victims were duped of amounts varying between $500 and $2,000. The victims only realised they had been conned after verifying with their cousins.

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New Jersey Woman Impersonates Ex-Boyfriend on Facebook; Charged

(Original story at the Daily Record here.)

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an old story from 2010 where a prison guard was arrested for impersonating his boss on Facebook. Now, Dana Thornton from New Jersey is in hot soup for setting up a fake Facebook profile of her ex-boyfriend, a police detective, and is facing charges of identity theft.

Even if criminal charges of identity theft were thrown out by a court of law, Thornton still runs the risk of a civil suit from her ex-boyfriend, Michael Lasalandra, for defamation. The Parsippany Police Department may also have a case against Thornton for — you guessed it — the impersonation of a police officer.

Do NOT pretend to be anyone else on Facebook!

Morris County ID theft charge at issue in court

11:36 PM, Oct. 25, 2011

A Belleville woman is testing New Jersey’s law on identity theft by claiming it doesn’t apply to her alleged creation of a Facebook profile in the name of an ex-boyfriend who is a Parsippany police detective.

Dana Thornton, 41, was indicted last year in Morris County on one count of fourth-degree identity theft, which is punishable upon conviction by up to 18 months in prison. The indictment and court papers allege that Thornton, after her dating relationship with Parsippany Detective Michael Lasalandra ended, created a Facebook page using his name and birth date, and posted photographs of him and comments.

The alleged false comments, written as though Lasalandra was their author, disparage his lifestyle choices and career. Lasalandra declined comment on the case Tuesday.

Defense lawyer Richard M. Roberts has filed a motion to dismiss the indictment in state Superior Court, Morristown, contending that the charge is deficient by failing to provide any facts that Thornton committed a crime under the statute. Unlike New York state law, New Jersey’s statute on identity theft or impersonation is silent on whether it applies to Facebook and other social media and electronic devices, the defense motion said.

“Most importantly, in New Jersey no courts have ever ruled that creating a profile of anyone online, without the individual’s consent, constitutes false impersonation,” the motion said. At most, Roberts argues, Thornton violated an agreement with Facebook that says no one can provide any false personal information or create an account for anyone other than themself without permission.

“Under the New Jersey statute, there is no plain wording, commentary, memorandum or any evidence of legislative intent to show that impersonating someone on line or by electronic means is a crime,” the defense motion said.

Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Peter Foy, who wrote a legal brief opposing dismissal, and Assistant Prosecutor Robert Schwartz, who will argue in court against dismissal, say the New Jersey law as written definitely applies. It doesn’t mention the Internet, but the law generally states that impersonating another or assuming a false identity and acting in such an assumed character to obtain a benefit or to injure or defraud another is a crime. In Thornton’s case, the state contends, her alleged victim’s character and reputation was injured by scurrilous comments posted on the fabricated Facebook page.

“Certainly it would damage his good name, standing or reputation if false comments and assertions” about Lasalandra were circulated, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office said in its court papers.

Superior Court Judge David Ironson was scheduled to hear the motion to dismiss this week but Roberts asked for a few days to supplement his filings. The case now is set to be heard Nov. 2 in Morristown.

According to Roberts, New York has specifically amended its impersonation statute to make it a crime to impersonate another by electronic means, including through use of a website. After Lasalandra complained to police, a grand jury subpoena was issued to obtain the Internet Protocol address from which the webpage in question was created; further subpoenas confirmed Thornton’s home computer was used, court records said.

Just because New York has amended its law doesn’t negate or dilute the applicability of New Jersey’s law on impersonation, the Prosecutor’s Office has asserted.

Peggy Wright

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Man Pretends to be His Boss on Facebook; Arrested

(Original article at Switched here.)

Imagine asking a friend or acquaintance to find you on Facebook using your first and last name because “it’s not going to be difficult to find me,” only to have him/her come back to you to ask why you posted what you posted on your profile (when you do not remember anything of that sort); why you have not accepted his/her friend request (you did not receive it); or which [insert first and last name] in [insert name of city here] you are.

Any of the above situations are likely to happen if your name is really common where you live, or worse, or if someone is impersonating you on Facebook.

The point is that it would not be long before your victim finds out about the impersonation, unless of course your victim does not use Facebook.

This is an old one and I cannot find updates on the case, but in many jurisdictions, it is a crime to impersonate elected officials, bureaucrats or a military serviceman. This might have been a prank to get back at his boss, but even if Lacroix did not get charged with a crime, he was unlikely to get away with the incident at work.

Prison Guard Arrested for Posing as His Boss on Facebook

by Amar Toor on December 20, 2010 at 03:50 PM

A prison guard in Rhode Island has been arrested after he admitted to posing as his boss on Facebook. The guard, 27-year-old Matthew Lacroix, reportedly created the fake profile using a computer at his neighbor’s house. Authorities first discovered the page in August, and eventually tracked the IP address to the home. Eventually, Lacroix pleaded guilty to “use of fraudulent information,” and had to pay $500 to the state’s Victims Indemnity Fund. Rhode Island’s Adult Correctional Institutions has since placed Lacroix on paid leave, pending the results of a forthcoming hearing.

Investigators say Lacroix enjoyed a friendly relationship with his neighbors, but insist that they weren’t privy to his Facebook fraud. “The couple living there knew nothing about it, but in the course of the conversation, they mentioned that their neighbor was a corrections employee,” police Capt. James Demers told the Providence Journal.

“Detectives went next door and Lacroix initially denied having anything to do with the page but later admitted it because he did not want to get his neighbors in trouble.” His boss, Department of Corrections head A.T. Wall, did not comment on the arrest, but spokeswoman Tracey E. Zeckhausen said that he was concerned “that someone would do this.”

Authorities haven’t elaborated on the information that Lacroix posted on the fraudulent page, nor have they determined whether it was an isolated incident, or part of a larger scheme. Further investigation will determine Lacroix’s ultimate fate, and may shed some light on why he decided to create the page in the first place. Either way, though, it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t the wisest of decisions.

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