Building a Digital Defense Against Holiday Photo Scams

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. Today: Building a digital defense with photo sharing sites.

‘Tis the time of year when we load up our cameras with shots of little ones all snug in their PJ’s, while visions of Santa cause them to run around like crazy fools.

Of course, you want to share those pics with friends and family. The goal is to do so safely.

Apple (iOS Photos) and Google (Google Photos) are two of the most common platforms to use, but there are any number of sharing options including Snapchat, Pinterest, Imgur, Flickr, and more. 

No matter the platform you use, here are some safety considerations to keep in mind:

  • Only share photos with people you know and trust. Assume that anyone can see, save a copy, and forward photos you post online.
  • Make sure that your mother-in-law (and everyone else you send it to) knows whether it is ok or not to re-share that photo. Likewise, make sure you are comfortable with whatever security (or lack of security) the recipients have on their profiles.
  • If you are concerned about big data services tracking you or identifying you, avoid posting or tagging images that clearly show faces. Select pictures taken at a distance, at an angle, or otherwise disguised. 
  • Remember that even if you restrict your data from public view, the service still has access to your data and may share it with third parties.
  • Remove the metadata from the photo that tells people where and when the photo was taken. No need to give strangers your home address. For information on how to remove metadata (called EXIF data), click here.

If you are the victim of an online scam, you should report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.  

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