The Feds Offer Friendship On Facebook

Have you recently received a Facebook friend request from someone that you do not know?

Do you know everyone who is following you on Twitter?  You may want to think twice about your social networking activity and how it may be used to implicate you in criminal activity.

We have all seen the Dateline specials where unsuspecting sexual predators are caught and arrested after chatting with agents whom they believe to be young girls.

However, according to the Associated Press, U.S. law enforcement agents have taken monitoring to another level.

Agents have caught on to the social networking frenzy and are now following people suspected of criminal activity through Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn and Twitter.

In a document obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), it is clear that U.S. Agents are logging in to exchange messages with suspects, identify a target’s friends or relatives, and browse private posts, personal photographs and video clips posted on YouTube or otherwise.

Investigators hiding behind fictitious online profiles, can check your alibi and compare the story you told to police against tweets or posts sent around the same time period.

They can also monitor pictures and posts for spending sprees taken after a robbery or burglary.

It has often been said, a picture is worth a thousand words and even what may seem to be an innocent photo can be perceived as incriminating even when taken out of context.

In fact, a Facebook profile enabled Federal Agents to locate Maxi Sopo, a native of Cameroon living in Seattle, Washington who was wanted on bank fraud charges.

Sopo fled to Mexico and posted several updates on Facebook  about the fun he was having.  Although Mr. Sopo’s profile, was private, profiles for several of his friends were not and an Assistant U.S. Attorney was able to pinpoint where he was living.  Based upon information obtained from Facebook, Mexican authorities were able to arrest Sopo last year and he is awaiting extradition to the U.S.

EFF also obtained an Internal Revenue Service document instructing employees on how to use to use Internet tools, including social networking sites, to investigate taxpayers. While the document states that IRS employees are barred from using deception or creating fake accounts to get information the possibility remains that your information may be accessed through your own or even a friend’s profile.

So, in the midst of our dependence upon social networking to keep up with what is going on, you may want to think twice about what you post or tweet, who you are friends with, and who you are befriending before you accept a friend request.

Your new friend may be the F.B.I.

The criminal defenseattorneys at the Strom Law Firm, L.L.C. include a former United States Attorney, a former public defender, a former Assistant Attorney General and Richland County Assistant Solicitor, as well as a tax lawyer familiar with IRS criminal investigations. The Strom Law Firm aggressively defends individuals on all criminal charges in all State and Federal Courts in South Carolina as well as the Federal Courts in Georgia. Our lawyers proudly edit the Columbia, South Carolina Injury Board as well as several other blogs as a pro bono effort to provide the public valuable information. Our lawyers are licensed in: South Carolina, New York, and Georgia


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