Beware of cyber predators: Dangers of virtual world!

Simply to gain followers and increase their social base, people don't hold back before adding and/or accepting requests of complete strangers.

Updated: Feb 13, 2016, 17:56 PM IST

Udita Madan

​Cyber crime is on a steady rise these days, due to those who take advantage of innocent people through social media websites and dupe them.

Cyber crimes like hacking, murder, theft, kidnapping, prostitution, child pornography, etc., are all part of the game.

Similarly, the concept of masking is making its presence felt. Even though most fake accounts and profiles on social media sites like Facebook are made to popularise something (Celebrity fanclub or an account to promote an upcoming movie or event, or simply to spread awareness about an NGO), some profiles are mainly made to target you, lure you into a sense of falsehood and deceive you once you fall into the trap.

Such an incident happened recently with the Higgin family which hails from the UK, when they fell prey to a fake account on Facebook.

It all started when Becky Szenk gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and decided to move closer to her husband Mark Higgins' work place, after buying a new pub. In their haste to find a mover, Becky posted details on Facebook and came across a moving company, owned by a man by the name of Lee Green. She soon made an appointment with him for the day they wanted to move.

Everything was going well, the movers proved supremely efficient as they packed everything in the house into the truck within 45 minutes. Impressed with their efficiency and speed, Mark and Becky couldn't help praising them.

The couple soon reached their new home waiting for the movers to arrive and couldn't wait to start building their lives in their new haven. After an hour of waiting, they began to get concerned, only to find out later that Lee Green did not even exist! It was a Facebook moving scam, whose chief goal was to steal people’s money and belongings.

In less than an hour, Mark and Becky had paid for their entire house to be robbed bare. The only thing they hadn't taken was their television, since they had already put it in their car due to fear, that it would get damaged with the rest of the household things.

They were even robbed off their clothes. Today, they are desperately trying to rebuild their lives, courtesy all the donations they received from strangers after they heard their story. Their belongings can never be replaced. But through all this, they have learnt a very painful, yet valuable lesson when it comes to the dangers of the internet: The need to get references from people you know.

Mark and Becky's story isn't an isolated incident. There are many Mark and Becky's around the world who have a similar, if not the same, story to tell.

To make yourself more aware of the kinds of cyber crimes that exist, do search for Peter Chapman on Google. His Wikipedia page will tell you what he's famous (read: notorious) for. Also known as “The Facebook Killer”, Peter Chapman impersonated a teenage boy using a fake Facebook profile, to befriend Ashleigh Hall, a 17-year-old college student from Darlington. Whereas, in reality, he was a 33-year old man living out of his car. Ashleigh met him on 25th October, 2009 and according to the prosecution, "When she met him on 25th October in 2009, he kidnapped, raped and murdered her."

Time and again, people have been warned against connecting with those about whom they don't have any information. However, simply to gain followers and increase their social base, people don't hold back before adding and accepting requests of complete strangers.

In your rush to climb up the social ladder by adopting such strategies, don't forget that you might be putting yourself as well as your family at risk. Instead, try socialising with people through your friends and family.

If you at any point suspect that the person talking to you is doing so through a fake ID, immediately report to the cyber crime cell.

After all, it's better to be safe than sorry!