Skip to main content

Feds Use Facebook Narcissism to Reveal Marriage Fraud

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is now using social networking sites such as Facebook to suss out people they believe to be involved in fake marriages for citizenship.

An Oct. 13 report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation contained a link to a memo written by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) – an arm of Homeland Security – that details how Fraud Detection and National Security agents create online profiles to "observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activity."

Playing into people's "narcissistic tendencies" to share personal information with their vast online social groups, and their willingness to accept friends, CIS agents are instructed in the memo to "friend" those they are investigating, a process which grants them access to information they might otherwise not be privy to when conducting an in-person site visit.

The report explains: "Generally, people on these sites speak honestly in their network because all of their friends and family are interacting with them via IM's (Instant Messages), Blogs (Weblog journals), etc. This social networking gives FDNS an opportunity to reveal fraud by browsing these sites to see if petitioners and beneficiaries are in a valid relationship or are attempting to deceive CIS about their relationship."

The report does not tell immigration agents to reveal their identity or government affiliation when joining someone's social network.

"In essence, using MySpace and other like sites is akin to doing an unannounced cyber 'site-visit' on a [sic] petitioners and beneficiaries."

The memo contains six steps to guide an agent on how to create a profile and join someone’s social network, and a Wikipedia link to the full list of such sites.

The steps show the agent how to sign up for and create a profile, what networks are available to join -- high school, job, hometown – and how to effectively "accumulate a large list of friends" by joining more networks and sending out numerous friend requests.