Social networking services (SNS) have many strong and positive aspects, including the power to spread information and its ripple effect on society. However, the openness and speed of SNS can be harmful in some cases. For instance, it is used in scams such as spam and phishing, based on mutual trust between members. Recently, personal information contained in SNS or the service that provides information about SNS users’ locations is sometimes used as a means of perpetrating offline crimes. Above all, crimes using SNS are not easy to deal with, since they have no limits in time and space, and the tactics evolve very quickly, different from general crimes.
A research team from the Korean Institute of Criminology released its survey results on February 3. The team targeted 1,000 residents (508 males and 492 females) in the metropolitan area who use SNS such as Facebook, Twitter, KakaoStory, and Cyworld. 16.9 percent of respondents said that they have been crime victims more than once through SNS. It means that 169 out of 1,000 people have fallen victim to fraudulent acts.
Among crimes using SNS, sex crimes topped the list with 7.6 percent, followed by fraud (7.0 percent), stalking (6.9 percent), impersonation (4.3 percent), and identity theft (1.8 percent).
Those numbers are higher than the 3.3 percent criminal victimization rates (fraud, theft, rape, robbery, assault, injury, threat, harassment included) shown in the national crime victimization survey conducted in 2010. The frequency of crimes through social networking sites is considered to be higher than the number of crimes occurring without it.
Psychological damages from SNS crimes are also regarded to be severe. In a survey, one out of four respondents with victimization experiences said that they have suffered from depression, fear, suicide impulses, or have been faced with problems in human relations. In addition, 40 percent of respondents said that they have become more distrustful of others after experiencing crimes.
Researcher Yoon Hae-sung remarked, “Victims of sexual or fraudulent crimes are more likely to suffer from depression. And those who have experienced stalking or a violation of identity tend to have difficulties in human relationships.” The researcher added, “A small number of victims said that they feel suicidal. So, the degree of victimization resulting from SNS crimes is serious.”