How fraudsters can use the forgotten details of your online life to reel you in | Scams


I’m sitting in a meeting room in Cambridge when a photo of a cat in a jigsaw box appears on the whiteboard. “Is this your cat?” asks anti-fraud expert Steve Goddard. I nod. “Is he called Chester?” I nod again.

And so begins a whistlestop tour of my life online. My delight at seeing my cat’s sit-down protest against my puzzle addiction slowly turns to unease about the overall picture that Goddard, who works for a company called Featurespace that detects and prevents scams, has been piecing together.

In the next five minutes I discover that details of my school lunchtime activities are available if you know where to look, that I take far more photos of flowers than I had realised, and that I have offered scammers enough information for them to have a chance of reeling me in.

These snippets are tools that Goddard says a fraudster could use as a starting point to “socially engineer” me – someone could use them to gain my…

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