“People Networking Fraud – Part-2”

“People Networking Fraud – Part-2”

Published ©2014 RSI/Dr. Mark D. Lurie (all rights reserved) Published ©2010-2014 RSI/Dr. Mark D. Lurie (all rights reserved)


Facebook®, LinkedIn® and Maven® are just three of literally thousands of contact management sites, business introduction sites and professional referral sites. In essence, all of them are truly one form or another of “Contact Management”.

People join them in droves and some are perpetually active on them communicating with virtual friends they have never met, to close friends that they actually visit from time-to-time. Employment can be acquired, or positions offered. Consultants use it to acquire clients which pay by the hour for consulting services. Dating services are abundant.

All have one thing in common – They are all “Contact Management” sites of one kind or another.

Contact management has come of age over the past two decades. From just a name and telephone number, contact management has grown into a massive system that allows individuals, companies and institutions to place detailed personal information about their businesses and themselves.

It now allows linking of personal websites, blogs, presentations and background information. You will find everything from streaming videos to details CVs. The addition to virtual stores which sell books, articles and white papers from numerous individuals who all use “Contact Management” sites as a launching pad for their business.

What is their purpose? From simple on-line gaming friendships (e.g. guilds representing players who group together for better experience and fun) to complex networking of specific professionals allowing the exchange of information, advice and assistance.

Forums where people gather to discuss everything from politics and customer support, to technical support and dating advice. “People Networking” can incorporate forums allowing for numerous topics and discussions to take place between an ever-growing number of participants and subscribers. For those looking for employment, it allows entire backgrounds and detailed resumes / CVs to be posted for public viewing, and give more exposure for employment recruiters to obtain tens of thousands of potential employment candidates’ information to be pooled into a database for them to draw from at will.

However, the controls and regulation of such information with these networking operations truly doesn’t exist. Moreover, those who subscribe agree to a plethora of terms and conditions (usually referred to as “Terms and Conditions” or “End User License Agreement – EULA) that most never read, let alone understand. The information supplied, in almost all cases, becomes public. This is a perfect invitation and hunting ground for the formation of identity theft and abuse. But out of this networking system, a new group of frauds and new threat has materialized:

 Virtual Individual Formation (VIF)

 Virtual Business Formation (VBF)

It was not long ago that an on-line game was formed called “Second Life.” It gives individuals to create, literally, an “avatar”, alter-self, or a totally unique individual, in a “virtual” form. The entire society is quite real, from a virtual perspective. It was only a matter of time that individuals would be able to take that “game” concept, and place such an idea by integrating it into an environment which would be readily accepted, that being People Networking Systems (PNS).

Information can be gleaned from individuals public knowledge found easily in the networking environments and systems. Individuals and businesses can be easily created with information and historical backgrounds that are, in principal correct, but in reality non-existent.

Examples are bogus CVs containing the proper information and history of several individuals which do exist, but compiled into a single CV of an individual that may be real but operating with VIF.

A phony individual can appear, operate and do business almost with impunity unless someone drills (researches) carefully down through the layers to validate / authenticate whether the person is truly who is being represented or not. This takes time, which is a fraudster’s greatest weapon.

Some of the motives?

1. Creation of totally fictitious individuals with information gleaned from real-life individuals who are integrated into portfolios, CVs, resumes or write-ups to be used to pass themselves off as credible, strong and experienced individuals in a chosen field or profession.

2. To solicit individuals or companies for investments using VBF or VIF-created fronts so as to pass a credible and legitimate proposers of investments.

3. To “farm” a very large source of potential investors on-line for investment monies, or supporters of financial investments (e.g. credit pledged) which is based upon a VBF or VIF operation.

4. To embed themselves into legitimate operations, or align themselves with other individuals for personal gain or profit (e.g. parasitic alliances and associations).

5. Selling of information gleaned from legitimate sources and individuals, including, but not limited to trade secrets, concepts, marketing information and lists, strategies, etc.

6. Gaining sensitive information that could be used for blackmail purposes, or to blackmail the actual source (fraud).

 7. Employment recruiters which in reality are virtual predators hunting for information to use for any number of possibilities.

In essence, VBF or VIF is nothing less than identity theft, but on a much more dangerous level since the victim doesn’t know that whom they are dealing with does not exist as represented, nor do they know that they can be an unwilling participant in having their background, personal history, etc. integrated into a another person. Think of it as “living plagiarism

In summary, this new fraud is exceptionally deceptive, very hard to identify, and almost impossible to stop at this time. Networkers Beware!

Research Solutions, Inc.

Facebook®, LinkedIn® and Maven® Registered Trademarks of their independent companies and Credit is given to their names. Second Life® is a Registered Trademark of Linden Lab  

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