Recently, rapper 50 Cent found himself being called back in front of a bankruptcy judge to explain why could flaunt wealth on social media while claiming to be broke. As bad as this appears, he is far from the most egregious example of this sort of behavior. Investigators and scammers are finding that the social media profiles of super-rich, or more often, the children of the super-rich, are target-rich environments.
Leading cybersecurity firms said they were using evidence from social media in up to 75% of their litigation cases, ranging from billionaire divorces to asset disputes between oligarchs, with the online activity of super-rich heirs frequently providing the means to bypass their family’s security.
In short, the rich are finding that, even when you employ elaborate means to hide your wealth, it can be undone with a few posts on Instagram.
Here are just a few examples:
- Investigators K2 Intelligence in London were working an asset recovery case where an individual claimed he had no significant assets, until they came across a social media post by one of the man’s children showing them on the father’s $25 million yacht in the Bahamas.
- Burford Capital was able to seize a plane from a fraudster when one of his sons posted a picture of them standing in front of the newly-acquired jet.
- Investigators for Kroll were able to uncover hidden assets in a divorce case where the ex-husband was ordered to pay a $30 million settlement to the ex-wife but, he was crying broke. They used the geo-tagging data from his children (who were in their 20’s) to identify half-a-dozen properties owned by this individual, worth at least $60 millon in total. His assets were frozen until he settled.
- Scammers were able to access the email of the heiress to a wealth management firm by determining that its password was the name of her dog, which she had posted all over social media. They were able to send phony invoices to the family’s company using said email and managed to scam them out of $900,000 before anyone had bothered to check on the validity of these requests for payment.
According to the investigators cited in this article, these incidents represent just the tip of the iceberg. Even if you’re not among the wealthy, you might want to re-think posting that shiny new thing you just purchased. You could be opening yourself up to unintended consequences.