Use of Social Network Sites is on the Rise in All Age Groups

By Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

Everyone's using them  from the pre-teens to the retired.  The U.S. has the highest number of Facebook users in the entire world. All this combined, is a gold mine for sophisticated hackers, but the FBI isn't taking it sitting down.

According to Agent Matt Espenshade, "Several years ago, the FBI was proactive and realized we were receiving numerous complaints, a growing number of complaints of frauds that pertained to Internet threats. Whether that be hacking or fraud or the various other things on the Internet."

Here's a scam that's making it's way around.  You get a message or email from someone, saying they're out of the country, need money and they want you to send them some.  Agent Espenshade warns, don't be so quick to call Western Union, "These emergency situations are the ones that are particularly dangerous because once someone receives it, they are all too quick to run and wire-transfer money to somewhere, which is actually fraudulent and that's how these people are really profiting from this type of activity."

The FBI issued a press release in October of 2009 warning of the dangers of this particular scam.  They recommend you follow some simple guidelines to keep from falling prey:

  • Adjust privacy settings on your computer
  • Select your friends carefully and limit your profile access
  • Disable certain options and watch what you click.
  • Also, know about the web site's security and privacy settings and always use the FAQ's.

Since Facebook is most popular in college students, age 18 - 24, NewsWest 9 went to the source to find out what makes it, dare we say, so addictive.

Junior Psych Major, Adri Andrade says, "Just to see what people are doing, basically, what their statuses are and what's going on."

"It's addicting because every time you do something or you have pictures you want everyone to see it.  If it's a proud moment," Sr. Grace Castillo, a Biology and Pre-Med Student, said.

Matt Cottrell, a Jr. English Major explains how you can access your Facebook from almost anywhere and do almost anything, "In class, I shouldn't be.  You go on your phone, hit Facebook and see what everybody's doing, maybe post a status."

"It makes it a whole lot easier to maintain relationships with people back home, people who went to different colleges," Soph. Seth Tuller added.

But for all they fun they're having, these kids also know how to play it safe.

"I don't put that much information on it.  Basically it's just my name," Andrade said. 
Cottrell added, "If it's not a site that I know of if it's something different, I don't put my password into it or my email."

Castillo has some advice for new and old users alike, "You have to watch who you accept as a friend.  Don't accept somebody you don't know."

While Tuller makes the most of every online experience, "I really use Facebook to it's full extent.  I use everything that it has to offer.  I limit what people can see on my site, based on our level of friendship."

The bottom line with these sites is to have fun and use common sense.  If you feel you have been a victim of an Internet scam on Facebook or another social network, or you think someone else has been,  log on to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at to report it.