Social Media Gift Ninjas
With A Good Idea, Sometimes Comes Unforeseen Consequences
Ah the social media “gift ninja” trend, no matter what we share on this issue there will be those who will call us a “Karen” or “Debbie Downer”. We get it, the gift ninja trend allows us as a society to socially connect, while we physically distance, which provides an emotional/psychological/empathetic breath of fresh air in the sometimes-stagnant environment of COVID-19. In this posting, we are going to share some risks associated with the gift ninja trend, things you can do to manage those risks, and how to make this experience more enjoyable and safer for all.
When these groups came to our attention a number of weeks ago, we were intrigued by this interesting concept, and decided to join a number of them to see what was happening. The pretext of these ninja gifting groups; by signing up, they will unexpectedly deliver a specific gift (bottle of wine, flowers, candy) to your door, depending upon the recipient, at a time when you least expect it.
To receive such a gift, you need to provide a little bit of personal information about yourself which may include; name, age and delivery address where the gift ninja will attend to drop the gift. However, after joining a couple of these online groups we also saw:
Secure condo/apartment access codes
Pictures/video’s that revealed a recipient’s vehicle including licence plate numbers which were visible
When we clicked on the profiles of those requesting a visit from a gift ninja, most of which were not locked down and private, we were also able to locate:
Pictures of families and their children
Dates of birth
Places of employment
Hobbies and interests
Personal email addresses
Now why is this important:
#1: Identify Theft: The number one crime being committed online against adults, and especially teens and youth, is identity theft. Much of the information we were able to locate would allow a criminal to steal the identity of that person to obtain a credit card, or online loan, without you knowing until it was too late. We guarantee you that the criminal element is creeping these groups looking for their next target.
#2: Online predation/exploitation: For the online predator, the more personal information they can obtain on a youth (age, likes, dislikes, hobbies) the easier it is to groom and social engineer the youth online for sexual predation and exploitation at a later date.
#3: Spam: Given that most of these ninja gifting groups reside on Facebook, you need to know that Facebook, and any other free social network, is collecting this information and selling it to others who want to sell things to you and your family. Given this fact, it will not be surprising for those who are providing too much personal information in these groups, that they will see an increase in the amount of advertising being spammed to their social networks, emails and phones.
Many who run these ninja gifting groups will argue that the information that they are gathering is no different than what you can locate in a phonebook. Not true! A phonebook only provides tombstone information; name, address, phone number and nowhere near the amount of personally identifiable and private information that we were able to identify in many of these groups. A phone book also doesn’t publicly publish any personal information, including pictures of children, and a phone book does not spam you with advertisements.
Another challenge with these gift ninja groups who target youth; who are the people who have started these groups? Do you know them personally? What is their background? Most people who interact with youth, both in a voluntary or paid capacity have to go through a background and criminal records check. Remember, those who want to prey upon our kids for sexual predation want you and your child to feel comfortable with them, and they will place themselves in positions to facilitate this fact.
So, do we think gift ninja groups can be made safer to help reduce unforeseeable risks? Yes! Here are some of our thoughts:
Consider forming a gift ninja group that is comprised of friends and families you know personally. Some are now doing this, which we think is AWESOME!
Do not provide any kind of personally identifiable information on public social networks. Only do so via a direct/private message or email.
Lockdown your social media profiles to prevent criminal social engineering
No matter what your privacy settings, or the platform being used, remember that everything we post online is public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable, shareable and often for sale.
Digital food for thought
The White Hatter Team