How to Safely Connect Online with Friends and Family
Social media has provided an incredible opportunity for people to connect with others. Whether you’re connecting with friends who you’ve never met in person (only on the internet), or you’re staying in contact with friends you’ve known for years in person, the internet has created a whole new way of interacting with other people. However, what do you do when someone takes advantage of your trust on social media?
It’s important to remember that, while beneficial in so many ways, the internet’s accessibility has also allowed scammers to proliferate across the Web.
So, say someone approaches you on a social media site claiming to be a long-lost relative or one of your nearly forgotten friends. Before taking that person at face value, take a step back. And take the time to:
- Check out the person’s social media page
- Go outside the social media platform to make contact
- Try reverse image searches
- Use an online people search
Check Out the Person’s Page
If the person approaching you is an actual friend or relative, you’d probably expect to see at least a handful of mutual friends. You’d also expect that person to have filled out their profile a bit, likely with some personal information, such as current city of residence and where he or she went to school. If you can’t find evidence of any of these things, that could be a red flag.
Essentially, you want that person’s profile to look “lived in.” If it’s new, tread carefully. Creating a social media profile that you’re going to use regularly takes a bit of time. Scammers want to reach as many people as possible in as little time as possible, so they may not put in much effort to fill things out.
Contact Your Friend Somewhere More Trusted
You can verify a person’s online identity by confirming it via other means: in person, via other other social media platforms, etc.
If an acquaintance from work requests to stay in contact via social media, but you feel uncomfortable about the situation, there’s no need to make an immediate decision. Instead, wait until you see that acquaintance again. That way, you know you’re talking to the actual person in question.
Even if you don’t see a friend regularly, you may be able to contact that person outside of the social media platform you’re currently using. Texts are a great option, although that’s not always possible if it’s a new acquaintance. If you’ve already confirmed other social media platforms with that person, you may be able to send a message on those platforms. It’s all about being creative.
Do Some Reverse Image Searches
If you’re like most people, the lack of a profile picture puts you on guard immediately. After all, without a profile picture, it’s much more likely that an account is merely a scammer.
So, having a profile picture means it’s likely to be real, right?
Not necessarily. A scammer could fill up an account with a profile picture and some general images with no problem. It only takes a quick image search to download pictures off the internet. That’s why you should run a reverse image search.
This technique is especially helpful if this scammer is pretending to be a long-lost family member. After all, you don’t necessarily know what that person would look like. If you see the image used in a variety of other contexts, it was probably just ripped off an image search page.
Use a People Search Engine
It’s not always easy to tell whether an identity claim is legitimate. That’s especially true in today’s age, where someone can download an image off the internet and use it for anything. Instead of trusting people, however, there are ways you can attempt to verify someone’s identity. One of these ways is with PeopleFinders.
Starting with a simple people search, PeopleFinders may be able to help you to verify that a person’s name matches with their social media images, that they actually live where their online profile says they do, and more. If information that you get from a person on social media clashes with whatever information you may have found on PeopleFinders, it’s a good idea to at least take a step back and be extra cautious.
Scammers are crafty. Just because someone claims to be your friend, that doesn’t mean it’s true. If you want to make sure you’re staying safe, especially in today’s technology-driven world, you need to make sure you do your own research. When you use PeopleFinders, you can try and do that research with just a few clicks.
Image attribution: creative soul – stock.adobe.comTags: Online Identity, Scammer, Social Media
Categorized in: Culture