Better Business Bureau warns against senior portrait challenge, cyber security experts weigh in

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Pomp and Circumstance can lead to problems and security threats online.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns your "Throwback Thursday," or "Flashback Friday" senior portrait post probably shouldn't be published.

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"The number one challenge for consumers and what we're hearing about at the BBB is COVID-19 related scams," Steve McFarland told ABC7 News.

McFarland is the President and CEO of BBB Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.

"We saw a few of them, maybe about a month ago or so," he said about challenge posts. "In the last two weeks, we've seen dozens of them across the BBB system, and other agencies are also looking out for them as well."

The new #Classof2020 challenge prompts people to post their high school graduation photos. The pictures are meant to offer support to current seniors, whose final year was greatly impacted by the pandemic.



What many fail to realize is that scammers or hackers surfing through social media instantly have access to that info.

"What is your high school name? What is your graduating year," McFarland said about the info being shared. "Some of the information, they could already find on Facebook or Instagram accounts."

Ahmed Banafa is a cyber security expert and professor at San Jose State University. Reacting to the information volunteered by a social media user, he explained, "They're actually the base for the security questions you have when you are setting up accounts, or you're trying to reset your password."

Social media, email, and bank accounts are just a few that could be compromised.

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"They're phishing and seeing if these passwords work," McFarland said. "And you know, they're actually working."

This week alone, millions of Americans will receive a stimulus payment. This has led many cyber security experts to assume crooks are finding new ways to try and take that money from people.

"It's an opportunity for the bad actors, for the criminals, because they know that people will start losing their guards overtime," Banafa told ABC7 News. "By saying, 'What am I gonna lose? This is fun.'"

He added, "The thing about it is they can use this information so they can create an account, or accounts. Then they can just load that one with a new credit card, or a new bank account, and you're going to find yourself in debt for something you don't know about."

ABC7 News did a search using #Classof2020 on Facebook. The simple search uncovered hundreds of public photos, and information volunteered by total strangers.

In the wrong hands, this data can be damaging.

"That's how scams happen. Because there are these diabolical people on the internet," McFarland added. "We hear it. We get 400 complaints a day in just the LA office."

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Self-prompted online quizzes also pose a great risk. Experts explained there is no doubt criminals are capitalizing on COVID-19.

"Social media created that environment where, 'The more I share, the more I feel good about myself. People know more about me.' But you are under this false security of, 'It's only my friends,'" Banafa said. "If it's on the internet, it's not sacred anymore."

So the BBB has the following tips to keep you safe on social media:

  • Resist the temptation to play along. While it's fun to see other's posts, if you are uncomfortable participating, it is best to not do it.
  • Review your security settings. Check your security settings on all social media platforms to see what you are sharing and with whom you are sharing.
  • Change security questions/settings. If you are nervous about something you shared possibly opening you up to fraud, review and change your security settings for banking and other websites.


Read the full warning by clicking here.

"Don't be tempted to play along too much, with some of the information and sharing- going overboard with some of the information," McFarland said.

Banafa added, "Having this information online, it's valuable. People can see it. It's going to make people who share this information very open for any kind of identity theft."

Additionally, and unrelated to the #Classof2020 challenge, McFarland with the BBB said the bureau is supporting the nation's front line heroes through #Lifebulbs. More information can be found here.

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