Safety on social media platforms

We prefer to trust the content we read here as coming from our fellow expats that we’ve never met in person but we’d like to think of as “honest folks”. However, newcomer expats hear from the old timers the stories about a very sketchy Canadian expat who founded a Cuenca charity that is still operating after he fled the country, along with other tales of expats being perp-walked out of a Gringolandia highrise (“X was nice, quiet and kept to himself”). Unfortunately, my 30 years in a technology career have taught me to have the right amount of wariness and employ best practices for safety online.

Keep in mind anyone anywhere around the world can submit posts and comments. You don’t provide a photo of your ID held up to your face as a requirement to post or comment. You don’t (yet) have an internationally-recognized digital ID. Don’t think you cannot be scammed or invited to violate the law in support of an alleged good cause. Bad actors can find names in archived posts and use those, making you believe a post asking for a donation that is signed “Jane Doe” is the same woman you’ve actually met at an expat hangout and believe she’s legit.

Those of you who use your alleged real name should be aware you are at risk for possible identity theft. Therefore, demands from those ignorant of best practices in online safety that you use your “real name” like they do are simply ludicrous. Also ludicrous is equating your length of residency in Cuenca to your trustworthiness because “everybody knows me”. No, they don’t. When you engage on public websites using your “real name”, you are speaking to vastly more strangers than the friends whom you’ve met in person and are members of your private Facebook group.

I address these reminders to the following audience:

–People (AKA “honest folks”) who either provide, patronize and/or defend in the comments the practice of muling to avoid Customs regulations. There is no debate. Stop trying to justify breaking the law. Instead, educate yourselves on the many legal courier services featured in recommendation posts that actually are quicker and cheaper than a mule. Also, ignore posts asking you to take a package if you’re heading north. They can afford to ship it by the usual services.

–People who participate in or organize a fundraiser selling an item where the organizers can only give you a promise all proceeds go to charity because after all they are “honest folks”. What you know for sure is you paid either a fair price or overpaid for an item and the seller has the right to do anything with your money. If you want to make a donation, the secure methods are the channels offered by the charity. This way the charity receives the money immediately and can thank you directly, a gesture that’s important to them to be able to do and one you’ve earned. If a benefactor wants to finance a donation incentive, then he should supply each charity location with the free gift inventory or in the case of a raffle, provide a method to register by sending them a photo of your receipt. It’s 2022, a middleman doesn’t need to handle your money. They should be happy to do this if they respect donation urgency and safety.

People are being deceived on a global scale these days. You all are intelligent people but everybody is prone to being gullible. I hope these reminders help people to be more vigilant. The world is growing uglier day by day.

Richard Tyler

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