Financial fraud has been around for centuries, destroying the lives and fortunes of countless victims around the world. But the most recent crop of con artists has an advantage that Charles Ponzi and even Bernie Madoff never dreamed of: social media. It may be the most effective tool for fraudsters since money itself.
div > div.group > p:first-child”>
“I wouldn’t say it’s changed the nature of fraud in America, but it’s definitely made it more accessible to the average person,” author and social media expert B.J. Mendelson told CNBC’s “American Greed.”
Take the case of Anna Delvey, who had much of New York society convinced she was a German heiress, a fashion icon and an up-and-coming entrepreneur. Former Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel Williams was among those taken in, and she told “American Greed” that Delvey’s social media accounts were a big reason.
“I had seen Anna in photos on Instagram and saw that she had over 40,000 Instagram followers,” Williams said. “She had a lot of artsy photos of travel and art and shopping, pictures with people in the fashion world.”
The two became fast friends. Indeed, Anna had lots of friends in high places, and she managed to get many of them to pay for a lavish life of parties, high fashion and international travel. She even came tantalizingly close to securing more than $20 million in credit from a big New York bank to create an arts and social club to be called “The Anna Delvey Foundation.”
Her flashy lifestyle and legions of social media followers notwithstanding, Anna was not Anna Delvey. She was Anna Sorokin, born in Russia. And while she did come to the U.S. from Germany, where her family had moved when she was a teenager, she was no heiress. She was a criminal. A New York jury convicted her on five out of seven criminal counts, including theft of services and attempted grand larceny. A judge sentenced her last year to four to 12 years in prison.
What is it about social media that so effectively supercharges frauds by Sorokin, aka Delvey, and so many others? Mendelson said it is a function of human nature.
“The way our brains are wired, we’re not set up to look for fraud,” he said. “If something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, more often than not, it’s a duck, at least that’s what our brain tells us.”
Mendelson, author of the book “Social Media is Bulls—,” said platforms that rely heavily on images are especially tricky because of our trusting nature.
“We’re very visual creatures. We’re more likely to take in information, and unless something seems really off, we’re more likely to believe it,” he said.
To protect yourself, put the images that you see on Instagram and other visual platforms through a reverse image search, pasting or uploading the picture into Google or your favorite search engine.
“A lot of fake accounts will generally want to ‘populate,’ which means fill out their account with content, and what they do is they steal imagery from all sorts of places,” Mendelson said. “You can do a reverse image search to see if that image was stolen.”
Regardless of the platform, Mendelson cautioned against merely looking at the number of followers. Consider how the social media figure interacts with them.
“If they have a million followers, but only 10 people are interacting with all their posts, that should be a serious red flag. That can mean that there’s bots. That can mean it’s just a spam account of some other kind,” he said.
Next, check to see what those followers say. Look for the telltale signs that the followers are not real.
“The most common one is it just says ‘thanks’ over and over and over again. Or it’s just a short sentence that’s repeated in every comment that they leave on people’s profiles,” he said. “That’s usually the work of either a bot or someone that was hired to populate the account.”
And if you interact with the account yourself, beware of someone who is too responsive.
“If you message someone and they message you right back at, like, 3 o’clock in the morning, that should be a sign that maybe something is not legit with that account,” Mendelson said. “Maybe someone overseas is piloting that account and it’s not actually based in the United States.”
Fraudsters do not only use their own accounts to pull off their scams. They also use yours. Beware of the information you share in your social media posts, or in posts that you respond to such as those Facebook questionnaires asking about various aspects of your life. You could be giving away the keys to your identity, your passwords, even your home.
“If you’re going on vacation don’t share it,” Mendelson said. “You can share it after you come back from your vacation, but what happens is there’s all sorts of schemers and fraudsters who might be looking for people that are away, and if you’re away, you could be robbed.”
Things can be especially tricky on professional platforms like LinkedIn. Identity thieves troll those sites looking for information.
“If you put on LinkedIn that you were at SUNY Potsdam from 2004 to 2006 and you log into your mortgage account and one of the security questions is, ‘What college did you attend?’ that person is one step closer to breaking into your account,” Mendelson said
Make sure your privacy settings prevent strangers from viewing your personal information, and do not connect with people you do not know. When setting up your security questions on websites that require it, be careful not to provide information that a hacker can also find on your social media pages.
“The more information someone has on you, the easier it is to steal your identity,” Mendelson said.
The social media landscape is filled with influence, both real and manufactured. While some posts seem to magically go viral, companies pay millions to social media figures—known as “influencers”— to plug their products.
The practice can be perfectly legal, of course. But Mendelson warned not to get taken in by manufactured hype.
“Anyone can be an influencer and that’s the problem,” he said. “You can certainly fake it until you make it. You can certainly create a persona of some kind that fits within some kind of niche and then have brands come to you that want to give you money.”
To guard against being unduly influenced, Mendelson said people should use their head when they use the internet.
“When you use Instagram, when you use Twitter, you’re looking at your phone. You’re in the middle of other things. We know our brains can’t multitask, so you’re very susceptible to falling for all sorts of hoaxes,” he said. “So, as cheesy as it sounds, stop and think and fact-check if you really need to. Google is your friend.”
Without a little skepticism, he said, you run the risk of going the route of Delvey’s victims.
“She looked the part of this wealthy heiress that was living the lifestyle,” he said, “because when it comes to imagery, we’re very easily fooled, that’s all you really need to do, is look the part.”
See how Anna Sorokin transformed herself into “heiress” Anna Delvey and lived the high life at other people’s expense. Catch an ALL NEW episode of “American Greed,” Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on CNBC.
Horizon Media, Madison Avenue’s Long-Time Independent Media Shop, Sells Minority Stake – Variety
Horizon Media, one of the largest advertising companies not owned by the big publicly-traded entities that dominate the industry, intends to sell off a minority stake to investment firms, ending its decades of pursuing a purely go-it-alone strategy.
Horizon, long controlled by entrepreneur Bill Koenigsberg, said it had sold a piece of the company to Temasek, a Singapore investment firm. LionTree Advisors, an investment firm led by Aryeh Bourkoff, will also become an investor as part of the transaction. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Koenigsberg is to remain “the long-term majority shareholder” of the agency. Horizon was founded in 1989, employs 2,500 people and manages media investments valued at more than $9.5 billion
“Horizon sees more opportunity than ever before to take advantage of gaps in the marketplace and continue our significant growth in driving positive business outcomes for our clients. In evaluating the next evolution of Horizon, I wanted a world class partner who is like-minded strategically, has the same appetite for growth, understands the media, marketing, and technology landscape, is global in scale, and culturally aligned,” Koenigsberg said in a statement. “I found that perfect combination in Temasek and LionTree.”
Horizon is one of a handful of large firms that help advertisers allocate and invest millions of dollars in advertising, serving all the while as influential go-betweens that deal with blue-chip marketers and the media outlets they need to get the word out about their products and services. Horizon has long worked for Berkshire Hathaway’s Geico, one of the nation’s biggest ad spenders, along with Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Corona beer and CBS. Horizon is also involved in the launch of the Hoop Dreams Classic, an event that is backed by actor Michael B. Jordan and WarnerMedia among others.
But the other media buying giants, like Magna, Omnicom Media Group and GroupM, are backed by Madison Avenue giants like Interpublic Group, Omnicom Group and WPP. Koenigsberg has, over the years, chosen to remain independent — and some clients have appreciated it.
In the past, Koenigsberg has seen his company’s independence as an advantage. “Being CEO for the company for the last 30 years and having a long-term vision is an enormous competitive advantage, because when I look at my competitors — and I don’t want to go back 30 years, let me go back 10 — there have probably been 100 different CEOs at my competitor agencies,” he told Ad Age in 2020. “When a new one comes in, they feel the need to shake things up and leave a mark,” he said, adding: “There’s an inconsistency in where they’re going. For me, I’ve had a much longer runway and an ability to drive the business forward with this long-term vision.”
Parents of the social media generation are not OK – CNN
(CNN Business)Last September, just a few weeks into the school year, Sabine Polak got a call from the guidance counselor. Her 14-year-old daughter was struggling with depression and had contemplated suicide.
A longtime concern that’s getting worse
Looking for answers
‘Frantic race backwards’ for China media freedoms: Report – Al Jazeera English
Reporters Without Borders says at least 127 journalists are detained in China, as Beijing takes ever harsher line on media freedoms.
At least 127 journalists – from major international news outlets to bloggers – are currently detained in China as the Chinese Communist Party continues a major crackdown on media initiated by President Xi Jinping, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has said in a new report.
China now ranks 177 out of 180 in the media watchdog’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index, two slots above North Korea, thanks to a sweeping campaign to limit free expression across every sector of society.
In the report, published on Tuesday, Secretary General Christophe Deloire described China as a country in the midst of a “ frantic race backwards” as Chinese citizens continue to lose press freedom.
Chinese journalists and writers have become a target of the campaign and face charges such as espionage, subversion and “picking quarrels”. They include whistleblowers like Zhang Zhan, a Chinese lawyer who last year was sentenced to four years in prison for documenting the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, and Cheng Lei, an Australian Chinese anchor at Chinese state media outlet CGTN who was formally arrested in February and accused of supplying state secrets overseas.
Prior to their formal arrest, many detained journalists may spend up to six months under “residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL),” according to the media group. Institutionalised in China in 2012, the practice allows authorities to hold an individual in solitary confinement and constant supervision at a designated facility. The practice is frequently described as “torture” by those who have experienced it.
Cheng was detained in August 2020 and reportedly underwent RSDL before she was formally charged six months later. Her trial and sentencing have yet to be announced.
Nearly two-thirds of journalists detained in China are Uighurs, according to RSF, many of whom helped to raise the alarm about China’s campaign of repression against the Muslim ethnic minority and other groups in the far western region of Xinjiang. Uighur journalists and bloggers appear to face harsher sentences than their Han Chinese counterparts, like Ilham Tohti, an economist and founder of the website Uyghur Online who was sentenced to life in prison for “separatism” in 2014.
Affiliation with major news outlets or second citizenship in a Western country has also failed to protect Chinese journalists, who under Chinese law can only work as “news assistants” for foreign media.
The release of the report coincided with the first anniversary of the detention of Haze Fan, a news assistant for New York-based Bloomberg News, who was taken away by plain-clothes police officers in Beijing last year. On Tuesday, Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said the media group was “very worried about her well-being” after 12 months of detention.
In a bid to control Chinese journalists in the future, the report noted, Chinese journalists are required to download an app “Study Xi, Strengthen the Country,” which can download their personal data, while they will soon have to undergo 90 hours of ideological training each year to renew their press card.
While the country has never been known as an easy place to report from, foreign journalists say that conditions in China have become more challenging in recent years and even more so under COVID-19 regulations, according to surveys by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China. In 2020, 18 foreign journalists were forced to leave China due to deteriorating diplomatic relations between China, the United States and Australia.
China’s crackdown has also extended into Hong Kong, a former British colony once considered one of the most open places in Asia.
The territory is the regional headquarters of media organisations including CNN, AFP and Reuters due to its formerly high level of press freedom.
Following months of democracy protests in 2019 and the imposition of national security legislation, Hong Kong media has also found itself under attack, RSF said.
One of the highest profile cases was the closure of pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily and the arrest of its founder Jimmy Lai, who is facing life imprisonment for “colluding with foreign forces” under the terms of the new legislation.
Six additional Apple Daily employees are also in detention, including the newspaper’s former chief editor and several writers.
Blue Bombers, Tiger-Cats find roles reversed ahead of Grey Cup rematch from 2019 – CBC Sports
Instagram Unveils New Features to Show Everyone It Really Cares About Teens’ Mental Health – Gizmodo
Thinking of Buying Equipment for Your Business? Here’s What You Need to Know
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Europe kicks off vaccination programs | All media content | DW | 27.12.2020 – Deutsche Welle
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Health15 hours ago
Why are Canadians going vegan?
Media17 hours ago
How to Make Your WordPress Site Run Faster?
Health17 hours ago
Anorexia hospitalizations among youth up in 2020: study – CTV News
Health14 hours ago
5 Common Cosmetic Dental Procedures
Business48 mins ago
Thinking of Buying Equipment for Your Business? Here’s What You Need to Know
Health18 hours ago
Number of COVID-19 cases in N.W.T. holds steady at 10 – CBC.ca
News24 hours ago
Canada must defend Arctic sovereignty: Zimmer – Alaska Highway News
Health22 hours ago
BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine may be less effective against Omicron, study finds – Financial Times