It’s a Facebook connection that began like any other for Tamara, a Waterford resident.
Tamara believed she was making small talk with her ex husband’s sister, who had recently requested to be friends.
But after two months of chatting --- and re-establishing a trusting relationship -- the conversation turned to money.
The relative started giving tips on how to apply for a grant she claimed to receive herself, and even directed her to speak with a seemingly legitimate attorney.
It was an offer she would have normally ignored, but this time, it was coming from somebody she thought she knew.
Without much thought, Tamara gave up her home address and other personal information. But what really surprised her is how close she came to forking over $500.
"They had to do a lot of research to really know what to ask me and how to push my button. It wasn’t financial. It was emotional," she said.
But doing that research isn’t as hard as it once was.
As a private investigator and cyber security expert, David Schippers knows just how it’s done.
He says cyber scammers often lean on sites like Ancestry.com, which can reveal a potential target’s entire family history.
But experts say it’s not only you that cyber criminals are after. Often times, it simply comes down to your employer.
According to Cisco’s 2016 annual technology report, Facebook scams are the most common online attack methods for getting malware into an organization with good cyber security.
But even though the social media site is now a magnet for cyber criminals, there are ways to protect yourself.
Experts say you can start by reducing your digital footprint. Lock down your Facebook privacy settings, and think twice about releasing your personal information.
Schippers says people need to be very vigilant in the digital world as much as they would be in the physical world.
In other words, if you wouldn't do it in person, then definitely, don't do it online.