Scammers  Hackers  and  Social Media

"Investigator Martinez. You have been called on the witness stand as the head of a team investigating cases of cyber scams. Please, can you tell to the court anything pertinent with regards to the case of Ms. Ann Santos?"

"The case involving Ms. Santos is still under investigation, Your Honor. It is for this reason, why I am not at liberty to give more than what is already exposed by the media. As it is known, Ms Santos and a syndicate, posing as Sgt Brown, met online, about 4 four months ago, in a social media site. They have corresponded with each other, purely, through e-mail. This is how they operate in order to get more information from their prospective victims once the full trust is obtained."

Ann bowed her head, remembering how her friends convinced her to join that site. John added her as friend, and then, insisted they communicate through their e-mails. John avidly courted her, and was so eager to win her heart. His e-mails were so loving and eager. How should she know they were all lies only?

"Investigator Martinez. Are we implying that social media is purely a medium for hackers and con artists?"

"Definitely not, You Honor. Social media is an amazing way for faster, more convenient method of communication between friends, families and business acquaintances. It is a way of connecting strangers all over the world with same interests, building lucrative networks, sharing new and helpful knowledges, global awareness on wider range of human issues and activities. Depending on the kind of site, social media is even creating emotional support system . Social media is basically the most convenient and cheapest forum for human interactions. Unfortunately, it can and has been used by unscrupulous personalities and organizations. Such has been the case we have right now with Ms Ann Santos."

Regret and guilt gripped Ann's heart. Many of the friends she had on the site has warned her against trusting John too much. She did not believe them, listening to John's lies about her friends being jealous, controlling and manipulative. Ann even went as far as blocking off friends she knew for years in her office. John has been able ostracize everyone that has shown doubt and suspicion of their relationship.

"How would a syndicate be able to operate in such large scale? Would it be not difficult to correspond with so many unwary men and women at the same time?"

 "Not at all! They have prewritten messages, designed so the victims will reply in such way that their next prepared mail would be usable. It would be supposedly to look like they're sharing their life's secrets.  Their last messages would then be encouraging the victims to share more financial information. This would go on until the last one asking help for certain financial difficulty, so they can then be free to meet each other, and quite often, the promise of getting married." 

So that is why John's messages never answered any of my questions about his prior messages. He probably has not even read any of my replies, Ann thought dejectedly. I feel so stupid!

"Investigator. If what you say is true, how can such syndicate come into a social site without being detected? They would need a great manpower to monitor such kind of page. And would not the victims be interacting with each other as members of a group page? Surely, one of them may easily slip a thing about his or her relationship with any of the other member."

"Let me elaborate, Your Honor. This kind of syndicate need not create a site page or group to recruit their victims. They can easily join any site, page, or just browse randomly. They will then create a bogus profile with pictures taken from other sites, invite few members to be in their friends list, along with their other cloned profiles."

Investigator Martinez shifted on the witness chair. "They do not need a big manpower. One person can have 5 or more 'clients' in one profile. They will then be notified of every message and post they receive. That is why e-mail correspondence is convenient for them, since that way, they can control the frequency of the communication. This will also make the victims feel desperate enough to help in any 'financial needs' sending money and unwittingly information of their banking and credit status which will then be easily hacked online by the syndicate for any purpose the information gathered may be of use for them."

 Ann thought of the excuses John had told her about why he cannot reply soon. Being in the dangerous war zone, attacked by the guerilla enemy, and secret missions assigned to him by his superiors. She was so scared and worried that something bad may happen to John.  Every night she prayed hard and long for his safety. Then, came to a decision that she will do everything she can to save and get John out of that hell he was drafted into.  Ann remembered how she sent money to John through her bank credit account for the payment of his pass in the Army so they can meet abroad and get married. She will get pregnant soon and that would release John from his draft.  That was when John stopped corresponding and all this trouble begun.

"Also, Your Honor, this Sgt. John Brown need not even to be human. He can easily be a computer-programmed identity, with an IP address that bounces in different sites all over the world. This and the other modern technology firewall system is what make our team's investigating efforts difficult."

Everyone inside the courtroom turned to look at the woman sitting besides the defense lawyer's vacant chair, as she screamed and cried hysterically.



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