FaceBragging and Fake Profiles on Facebook and Social Media

friends on facebookI have been reading an amazing report from Legal General – the Digital Criminal 2012 – CyberSafety Report which alerted me to the term FaceBragging.

Facebraggers

Almost a third (29%) of social media users only update their Facebook status or tweet when they want their friends to know what they are up to. Over half have discussed an event, holiday plans or evening out on Facebook or Twitter. Facebraggers will post photographs of their latest acquisitions or check in to luxury establishments without actually having been there.

Some say it does no harm and is helping to portray a more positive picture of that person’s life but, for burglars, it can be very interesting information, especially if they then know when you are out so they can go take a look. As Michael Fraser, the reformed burglar who stars in the BBC’s Beat the Burglar’ “they are putting their homes seriously at risk because burglars can see from their profile what they have purchased recently, what possessions they have in their home, and when they will next be out of the house in order to pay their home a timely visit.

Over nine out of ten social media users (91%) have received a request to connect online with someone they have never met in person, and over half (51%) have accepted – on Facebook that figure is 42% and users there say that only 59% of their friends are people they actually know well. So, if you think that the average Facebook user has 160 friends, that’s actually 66 strangers who are viewing their daily doings.

In fact, a quarter of social media users generally said they wouldn’t be surprised if a Facebook friend was not who they said they were and a third thinking that some of their connections might have a criminal record. 73% said they wouldn’t trust all their friends with a secret – and yet they persist in putting up all sorts of personal information. 21% wouldn’t recognise all their friends in the street and 25% wouldn’t know them in a criminal line up!

Back to Michael Fraser again, who warns “While people are becoming savvier about privacy settings on social networks, they can also develop a false sense of security with their online connections, wrongly believing they can trust all those so-called ‘friends’. By turning a blind eye, people can unwittingly expose a wealth of personal information – a real goldmine for burglars. Digital criminals know how to spot easy targets – for example, someone with over 500 friends on Facebook is very unlikely to know all those people personally and will therefore be much more likely to accept a stranger’s friend request. By befriending a number of the target user’s other friends beforehand, the victim is even more likely to accept the fake friend, inadvertently giving the burglar access to all their personal information.

Connections On LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, it’s even worse with almost two thirds (62%) of their total connections being people they have never met. But the problem here is that the more people you are connected to, the more likely it is that you will be seen in any search for keywords related to your business on that platform, so people are encouraged to connect with people that their other connections know. Another issue is that you might be tempted to do business with someone purely on the basis that a connection ‘knows’ them, whereas in truth, they probably actually only ‘know of them’ – which is not the same as a personal recommendation at all.

The Mutual Friends Problem


And, what most social media users don’t realise is that digital criminals have developed a new technique where they use fake profiles to befriend our friends and, with the knowledge that we are more likely to accept a friendship request from someone who is also the friend of a friend, they then ask to be our friends.

It’s called the Triadic Closure Principle and looks at the likelihood of people with mutual friends becoming friends themselves. Mark Johnson of The Risk Management Group (TRMG) said that if John was friends with Mary and Mary was also friends with Omar, then it was more likely that John would accept a friend request from Omar too.

So, digital criminals create fake personal profiles who look exciting and they start befriending people with the prime objective of zoning in on a vulnerable victim.

63% of those surveyed had a mutual friend in common even though they had never met that person in reality. But why would people do that?

Well, 34% had accepted because they were members of the same group, 25% liked the content or image on the person’s profile, 11% thought that it would be rude not to accept since, if they were asking to be friends, they must know them and have forgotten. A straw poll of my own friends revealed that many had accepted people they didn’t know for some of these reasons.

Although no one admitted to being one of the very sad 17% just wanted to increase the number of friends they had on Facebook.

Online gaming is another area where this technique is being used to good effect. The Digital Criminal Survey set up three fake Facebook and Twitter accounts and an average of 60% of users accepted a friend request, rising to 87% if they were playing the same online game.

Facebook and Twitter do have measures in place to try to keep people safe but only one of the three fake profiles was actually caught and that was because, four days into the experiment, someone reported that they didn’t know them in response to the friend request. Facebook took action by blocking the fake profile for seven days so that it could not make any further friend requests.

Staying safe on Social Media

Legal General advise that, for personal safety on Facebook and other social media platforms, you should

  • check your privacy settings so that friends of friends cannot see your updates and check which applications you have accepted can access your private data.
  • Don’t accept friend requests on Facebook or connection requests on LinkedIn and Twitter from people you have never met.
  • Limit what you publish when it comes to personal info like date of birth, gender, address, telephone number and don’t talk about your holiday or weekend plans or highlight new purchases.
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Employed or Self-Employed? Small Business Outsourcing

It’s difficult being a small business that wants to expand.  It seems that at every turn, we can be thwarted by rules and regulations.

One of the first that raised its ugly head was the question of outsourcing and the status of those freelance workers in relation to my business if I start to use them regularly.  I can’t do everything myself if I want to start taking on sufficient clients to build the thriving local business that I envisage.  I do want to take on proper full time employees eventually but the budget just won’t run to that at the moment.

I suspect that this is the point where people would say that I need to take out a business loan.  However, I am not prepared to take on external debt – that way lies a pocketful of problems.  My business has to be self-sustaining and, at a time, when small businesses are the lifeblood of this country’s economic future, it would be really nice to think that the Government could actually take on board this very important criteria and put some measures in place to help both the huge workforce that is tied into the title housewife and those potential employers who, in the future, would be happy to provide them with full time work.

I asked the lovely Sam Kettridge at Dormer Finance if she could give some guidance in establishing exactly when an outsourcer actually becomes an employee.  But also what housewives and other people looking for a foothold back in the workplace should be doing in terms of establishing their role for tax purposes.

Employed or Self Employed?

The starting point would be to assess whether a worker is employed or self employed as it is not a matter of choice and it is the responsibility of the person/ business supplying the work to get it right.

As a general guide as to whether a worker is an employee or self-employed; if the answer is ‘Yes’ to all of the following questions, then the worker is probably an employee:

  • Do they have to do the work themselves?
  • Can someone tell them at any time what to do, where to carry out the work or when and how to do it?
  • Can they work a set amount of hours?
  • Can someone move them from task to task?
  • Are they paid by the hour, week, or month?
  • Can they get overtime pay or bonus payment?

If the answer is ‘Yes’ to all of the following questions, it will usually mean that the worker is self-employed:

  • Can they hire someone to do the work or engage helpers at their own expense?
  • Do they risk their own money?
  • Do they provide the main items of equipment they need to do their job, not just the small tools that many employees provide for themselves?
  • Do they agree to do a job for a fixed price regardless of how long the job may take?
  • Can they decide what work to do, how and when to do the work and where to provide the services?
  • Do they regularly work for a number of different people?
  • Do they have to correct unsatisfactory work in their own time and at their own expense?

In addition to this, there are some special cases where there status is already decided by HMRC.

 

Tax (for tax year 2012/13)

Both employees and self employed workers are entitled to a Personal Allowance of £8105 (this is amount a person can earn before they need to pay income tax). 

Tax is then at 20% on income from £8106 to £42475 and 40% thereafter up to £150,000.

Employed workers have this deducted from their salary monthly/weekly.

Self employed workers pay this over to HMRC on 31st January following the end of the tax year.

 

National Insurance (for tax year 2012/13)

Employed workers pay Class 1 NI. The first £7592 is at 0%, the next £34892 is at 12%. This is deducted from the employees salary monthly/weekly.

In addition to this the employer will need to pay Employers NI.  The first £7488 is at 0%, then at 13.8% thereafter.

 

Self employed workers pay Class 2 NI regardless of income levels.  This is £2.65 per week and can be paid monthly or quarterly by invoice or direct debit.

They will also need to pay Class 4 NI which is dependent on level of income.  The first £7605 is at 0%, the next £34870 is at 9%.

 

Register for Self Assessment Tax Return

It is straight forward to register for Self Employment by calling HMRC or completing form CWF1 and sending it to HMRC.

Once a person has registered for Self Assessment they will then be issued a UTR (Unique Tax Reference) in the post.

This will then be needed to register for HMRC Online Services so that the worker can then file their Tax Return online.

Self Employed persons are assessed on the profit they make after tax deductible expenses.  I.e. protective clothing, stationery, phone calls, mileage etc.

 

Professional Advice

Each individual case is different and I would recommend that professional advice is sourced from an Accountant on each case.  Here at Dormer Finance we offer a free no obligation first consultation which I would highly recommend for any employer or worker.

 

Disclaimer

Whilst the information provided above is believed to be true, it is provided without acceptance by Dormer Finance Ltd of any responsibility whatsoever, and any use you wish to make of the information is, therefore, entirely at your own risk.

Samantha Kettridge FMAAT, FCCA, ACA

 
For my American readers, here is a similar rundown on the trend for virtual assistants and how they too could be considered employees.

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Small Business SEO Services

small business seo servicesA lot of local companies will have been receiving calls and emails from suppliers in India and from various parts of the UK offering them what they call ‘small business seo services’.

Whether this is in the form of a free video in return for a link back to a site or a free guest blog post which contains a link back to another site or help with their Facebook Ads or Google Adwords campaigns or even just saying that they will ‘get them to the top of Google’, you have to be very careful who you get into bed with.

The latest algorithm updates – how Google decides which websites should rank where on the results pages that they produce for a particular search query – have focused on links, quality of content and manipulation of the system using keywords in the domain. The latest Facebook updates have targeted Pages that have fake profiles liking them – a scam which has been rife over the last year.

Small Business SEO Services

In addition to the daily emails from India, I also received a call myself recently from a very persistent salesman who insisted that he could build me high quality links back to my site for £250 per month. His sales patter was good and, even my interrogations were answered, because he was able to pass me on to more qualified colleagues. It looked like a really good opportunity, but there was still a nagging doubt in my mind.

The trouble with allowing someone else to help build you backlinks by writing guest posts which are posted on their tame sites is that you are at the mercy of the back catalogue of all their other customers. Some of those will have been actively building backlinks for years through a variety of methods which once were grey hat and which have now been deemed bad links by the latest Google algorithms.

If your site is getting links from several other websites which are also giving links to businesses which are not as squeaky clean as you in terms of SEO, then you could be tarred with the same brush by Google… and penalised accordingly.

It doesn’t matter that they offer a money back guarantee if your Google ranking doesn’t improve. If you then have to spend months asking webmasters to remove links that are damaging you, some of whom will not answer or comply, you have done more harm than good.

Working with bigger SEO companies from other parts of the country/world, you do not have the same clout as you would if you were working with a more local, hands-on company. To them, it’s all about the money, whereas a local SEO company has to protect their own reputation as a good link builder in order to maintain their standing within the community. Get it wrong and they could lose a lot of other customers who all talk to each other, whereas the guys who call you buy phone are completely protected from that eventuality.

Exact Match Domain Penalties

The SEO world has been in a right two and eight over the last week about an update which crept in and has penalised a lot of affiliate marketers sites where they targeted their chosen keyword with a website url which is the same. There are reams of posts on various forums on the subject.

But the truth is that not all domains have been affected. The difference here is that it is ok to have an exact match domain so long as you have an established site which has regular QUALITY content and a good variety of social shares – physical human proof that the content on that site provides good, relevant information.

There are many affiliate marketers shouting the odds that they have quality content on their site – but, because many of them have English as a second language and use ‘spinning devices’ to change one article into several, the resulting post is not always readable.

Local company promotion that does not rely on SEO

Yes, Google will still make mistakes and some small businesses may suffer a penalty for having a very long exact match domain – which is why it is a good idea for anyone setting up a website to try to include their brand name with the keyword which best describes their business. Or to just go for the brand then use the meta data to tell Google what the site is all about.

More importantly, it’s a good time to start looking at promoting your business in a way that isn’t completely reliant on Google – there are other search engines. And there are also other methods of getting seen. Suddenly, a combination of online and offline marketing becomes imperative. As usual, the money is in the list – the customer information that you have on your books which can be used to remind existing customers of a new product or special offer.

Facebook Ads and Google Adwords Call Centres

Again, with people cold calling you offering to manage your Facebook page or ads, you have very little come back when it does not match up to your expectations. These salesmen are paid by the lead so they will say anything to get you to sign up. They know little about the intricate processes involved with achieving engagement with a local audience.

They will set up an ad using your logo which will not attract the attention of anyone and then they will set it so that if someone does click through, it goes to your wall – a smorgasbord of information that can be overwhelming, rather than a dedicated landing page which answers the questions raised in the main ad.

If you start to ask questions about the lack of clicks, they will point to big numbers of impressions which muddy the waters as an impression is the opportunity for someone to see the ad, not an actual fact that it has been seen and noticed. Ask about conversions and they will wriggle out of it by saying that the content on your wall is at fault – and they would be right! But, of course, they didn’t tell you that in the first place.

We have had the same experience with those offering to run Google Adwords campaigns. Generic ads that do not address the areas of pain your potential customers need identified and answers. Landing pages that go straight to the Home page rather than dealing specificially with the subject of the ad. And no possibility of any guilt on their part. Caveat emptor.

Social Media Optimisation for SMEs

Although many local businesses struggle to run social media profiles effectively, it is always a good idea to have a presence on the main platforms. Completed correctly, these Bios and About sections can provide a valuable SEO link to your website, helping Google to target your business for product and location and even ranking those pages for less competitive keywords.

But, more importantly, if people do search for ‘product in location’ within those platforms themselves, you have a chance to get your business to be prominent on the results page that is produced. This is called social media optimisation.

It is beginning to be understood that SMO is the new SEO.

Social Media for local business

If you run a business that has a dedicated following and it is possible to provide rewards for their enthusiasm in the form of discounts and offers or competitions, you can run some very successful social media campaigns. We recently ran a competition for a local cake maker supplies company and were able to increase their following by over 2k fans.

Better still, some of those new likers went on to buy from the company. That’s the whole purpose of running a social media profile – getting your brand in front of people who might not have known about you before and then converting those new fans into customers.

Call us today on 01702 476517 or 0121 249 1306 to find out how Small Business SEO Services can help your company to become THE place to go for your product locally

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Female Entrepreneurs In the 1920s

Who Do You Think You Are? came up with the goods on successful business women of the past yet again last week with the story of the ancestors of William Roache. Yes, he of Ken Barlow off Coronation Street.

Bill Roache is now 80 years old and holds the title of the longest serving soap opera actor in the world. As he said, he never planned it, he just wanted to work well and continuously.

A trait which he seems to have inherited from his grandmother, Zillah Woddacor.

zillah was married to a violent drunk but that does not seem to have stopped her from being an extremely successful businesswoman – with the help of her father in law.

We don’t know exactly how Zillah came to marry Albert Waddicor, an ices and temperance beer seller with premises on the front at Blackpool. But the rest of her life started there.

How an ice cream stall holder became a leisure industry entrepreneur


The shop was little more than a large hut but it was in a prime position and they made enough money for her to be able to rent several rooms in the big house at Alton Towers, when the Earls of Shrewsbury finally had to sell up and downsize.

In those days, Alton Towers was famous for the house and gardens, which local investors had spruced up to provide a venue for daytrips for factory workers in the area who suddenly found themselves in possession of half day Saturdays – thanks to the intervention of the Trades Unions.

The possibility of weekend breaks had arrived and special trip trains were run by some employers because they felt that visits to local historical buildings was self improving for their workforce.

Alton Towers saw around 250,000 visitors each summer and Zillah’s cafe could accommodate 1000 diners in various sittings each day.

The times had changed since my previous post about widows in the Victorian era who became successful business women did not remarry so that they would not have to lose their property and wealth to a husband.

The suffragettes and the First World War saw women given the vote in 1918 but the return of the soldiers from the fighting meant that many women were forced to return to housewifery. There were rules called marriage bars which said that married women were excluded from employment in certain occupations. The number of married women actually working gradually fell to an all time low of just 14%.

However, the Married Women’s Property Laws meant that wives were now able to hold property and money in their own right. Family businesses were the one way that married women could actually earn and keep their own money. Zillah made the most of this.

Eight years after she first rented out the rooms at Alton Towers, she was also renting the Old Mill, a cafe immediately opposite the station at the village in Alton – the platform of which had recently been extended to accommodate the increased numbers of passengers visiting the attraction.

Zillah was one of the leading leisure entrepreneurs of her generation at a time when there were very few women in business.

There were photographs of Zillah, her daughters and various female companions on luxury holidays in Europe – never with Albert – so she clearly enjoyed the benefits of her hard work.

She had obviously impressed her father in law at an early age because, when he died, he left her and his wife as his executors. The Will itself left all this property in trust for Albert and Zillah’s daughter, May, whilst Albert was allowed only the income from those properties.

It allowed him to live the life of a gentleman, rather than having to work but prevented him from being able to squander away his father’s fortune on alcohol – rather odd when he had begun his career selling temperance beer, the old fashioned word for soft drinks.

But it also gave him his own income and kept him out of Zillah’s hair when she was building and maintaining her own successful business.

It was an extraordinarily uplifting programme for any woman who has her feet firmly set on achieving the same and Bill’s pride in his grandmother was immense.

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Women In The Boardroom Quotas

I’ve been enjoying Hilary Devey’s programme on BBC2 about Women At The Top.

Whilst providing half of Britain’s workforce, business is still dominated by the men in grey suits and women make up only one in five of senior management in a boardroom position.

The facts have shown that mixed gender teams can achieve 5% better business results and Hilary herself discovered that the department in her company which performed the best was a 50:50 mixed gender split.

Across Europe, things are little different with figures from the beginning of the year showing that only 3.2% of the presidents and chairmen of large companies in the EU were women and only 13.7% of boardroom seats were taken by women.

It is this which has led to the European Commissioner, Viviane Reding announcing an initiative to make Boardroom Quotas that women occupy up to 60% of the seats on corporate boards part of legislation for all members of the European Union.

She herself does not like quotas but they open the way to equality and countries that had implemented them had seen results. And this statement was echoed by Hilary.

Where did these Boardroom Quotas start?

The legislation itself came into being in the Norwegian Parliament in 2002. The Trade Minister, Ansgar Gabrielsen, insists that he has never been a feminist but he was influenced by a debate in the mid 1990s which had focused on the vast amounts of money spent on educating the daughters of Norway over the previous three decades which had resulted in only 6% of them getting onto the boards of the most respected companies.

He did not speak to his prime minister or to his government colleagues, he announced the legislation in a newspaper interview. ‘It was a revolutionary idea and it had to be done in a revolutionary way’

A decade on, 44% of the seats in the boardrooms of public companies are now occupied by women, aided by almost a year of full maternity pay and state subsidised nurseries. They bring something different to the boardroom because they ask the difficult questions – and sometimes the stupid ones which need to be addressed too.

However, the position of CEO is still dominated by men with only 2% of females having that title. Quota legislation has not helped them get to the top yet but it’s necessary in order to allow them to reach the pool from which to be selected.

The quota system in Parliament

Back in Britain, Barbara Follet talked about the old boys network in our own Parliament. These days one in five of our MPs are women but in the 1990s it was one in ten.

Few women bothered to stand for Parliament because there was a system where the men were given the safe seats and the women had to fight for the unsafe seats. Labour introduced a quota system which meant that local parties were forced to choose from an all female shortlist. In the 1997 General Election, over 100 women entered Parliament as Blair’s Babes.

The main argument against the quota system is will it allow the best person to get the job? So can it work in business? Well, there is just as much of an old boys’ network there as there was in Parliament.

The quota system allows for a greater examination of the people being considered for a job – they have not just been shoed in thanks to their connections.

Progress needs to see some positive action and this is a short term measure to correct a long term imbalance.

Is there another way?

With 83% of FTSE 100, 89% of FTSE 250 and 92% of FTSE 350 company board members being men, Lord Mervyn Davies was asked to break up this monopoly.

He said that they needed to smash what is an all male solution and his solution was to set targets for women on boards.

25% of the board had to be women by 2015 and companies were encouraged to publish how many women employees they had and how many were getting to the executive committee and the board.

In France and Norway this figure was set at 40% but the feeling was that this figure became a quota rather than a voluntary attempt at self regulation and business women themselves do not necessarily want the quota unless this initiative does not work.

Businesses have to be allowed to adjust and believe in the culture behind it because it will be better for both society and business in the future.

But it was also about allowing chief executives to become aware of those business women who were ready for board positions and there are various networking groups and clubs which help those aspiring women to get noticed.

As a result the number of women entering the boardroom has risen sharply in the last year, with 1 in 4 businesses now reaching that target of 25% and another figure was quoted that in the last two months 48% of appointments to the boards of FTSE 100 companies were women.

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