Facebook Jezebels: Using social networks to collect debts

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Forget knives and handguns, slingshots and the atom bomb; the world's most dangerous weapon is still the human libido.

As far back as Homer's Odyssey and the Old Testament, lust was the go-to weapon when arrows and armies failed. Even today, Sirens can still draw men to wreck their boats and Delilahs can easily convince them to get dangerously bad haircuts.

The latest arena for libidinous trickery may well be Facebook. According to a recent article on Consumerist, a debt collector has been posing as a flirty Facebook Lolita in an attempt to keep tabs on some of the site's male users. Excerpting a conversation between Bryan Passifiume, a freelance writer and photographer, and "Jenny Anderson," a woman in Vancouver, BC, the article suggests that Anderson is actually a decoy that was designed to make it possible for skip tracers to observe the movements of some of their debtors.
In terms of fact-checking, the article holds up fairly well. There is a "Bryan Passifiume" on Facebook, and there is a CBV collections on the internet. Based in Canada, CBV has offices in Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and, yes, Vancouver. Although its website doesn't seem to have been updated in a few years, it is professional-looking and appears to be legitimate.

In her conversation, "Jenny Anderson" mentions HR worker "Aarona Liew." This checks out, as LinkedIn lists an "Aaronna Liew" as a "Human Resources Supervisor Rep Western Region of Canada at CBV." She also has a Facebook profile that lists her as living in Vancouver, BC. Judging by her profile pic, Aaronna is apparently into running. On the other hand, "Jenny" also mentions "Andrew Conely," who is supposedly Emily's immediate supervisor. There doesn't appear to be any evidence that "Andrew Conely" (or "Connelly," "Connely," and "Connelly," for that matter) actually works at CBV.

On the other hand, there definitely is an Emily Scarfo in Vancouver, BC. She is a member of Facebook who, incidentally, likes Swedish Fish and hates people who don't text back. Her profile photo shows a quirky, bespectacled brunette who is a far cry from the elfin, blonde "Jenny Anderson." It is unclear, however, whether Emily actually works for CBV, or if she was actually behind any sort of scam. For that matter, while Consumerist provides a Facebook link to "Jenny Anderson," I was unable to find her independently on the site.

So, what does this mean? Well, to begin with, Passifiume's account seems probable, in spite of the apparent misspellings and the internet absence of some figures. More importantly, even if this particular story is not true, it still highlights one of the key dangers of online social networking. Many Facebook users don't seem to realize how much information they are leaving on the internet, nor are they aware of the potential pitfalls inherent in by accepting strangers as "friends."

Simply using updates, photo albums, and other self-provided information, a clever debt collector could easily assemble a rough sketch of a user's economic profile. For example, a ski trip suggests certain expenses; with a little bit of research, it is possible to make some very educated guesses about how much disposable income a debtor has. Similarly, it's not uncommon to find Facebook users freely talking about their jobs, raises, bonuses, and other key info. To put it another way, if Al Capone had been on Facebook, Eliot Ness wouldn't have needed access to his books.

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