Device Intelligence Helps Stop Scammers Targeting Social Media Sites

We’ve heard this story before, but unfortunately it happens over and over again. Social media and dating sites are overrun with criminals who pose as legitimate, upstanding individuals, but are really wolves in sheep’s clothing.

In Florida, a man named Martin Kahl met a 51-year-old woman and they developed an online romance. A quick search for the name “Martin Kahl” turns up many men with the same name and no obvious signs of trouble.

This particular Martin Kahl told his online girlfriend that he would soon be working in Nigeria (red flag) on a construction project, but a short time later he informed her that the job had fallen through. He cried poverty and asked her to send him money, which she did.

(If there are people in your life who might be prone to falling for a scam like this, please reel them in immediately. Any of their financial transactions ought to require a cosignatory.)

Anyway, during their affair, Kahl claimed he had been arrested (red flag) on some bogus charge, and requested that the woman bail him out to the tune of $4,000, which she most likely paid via money wire transfer (red flag).

All told, she sent the scammer at least $15,000 during their relationship. Sadly, social media sites can do more to protect their users, and should take advantage of information that readily exists for them to use — the known reputations on over 650 million devices in iovation’s device reputation knowledge base. Computers that are new to these social networks dealing with scammers and spammers are rarely new to iovation.  They have seen these devices on retail, financial, gaming or other dating sites and will help social sites know in real-time, whether to trust them.

In the case above, the phone numbers used in the scam were traced overseas. The computer or other device the scammer used to go online could surely also have been traced overseas and could have been flagged for many things:  hiding behind a proxy, creating too many new accounts in the social network, device anomalies such as a time zone and browser language mismatch, past history of online scams and identity theft, and the list goes on.  Scammers in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Romania, Korea, Israel, Columbia, Argentina, the Philippines, or Malaysia conduct many of these scams, spending their days targeting consumers in the developed world.

Social media sites could protect users by incorporating device identification, device reputation, and risk profiling services to keep scammers out. Oregon-based iovation Inc. offers the world’s leading device reputation service, ReputationManager 360.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses Dating Security on E! True Hollywood Stories.  Disclosures

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