MANILA, Philippines - Sometimes, your online presence may not make you new friends. It might, instead, expose you to danger by drawing the interest of kidnappers.
The Philippine National Police has warned the public to be careful of what they post on social media so as not to unwittingly entice criminals into abducting them for ransom.
Senior Supt. Rene Aspera, chief of staff of the Anti-Kidnapping Group, said some kidnapping syndicates have turned to Facebook and other social networks in scouting for would-be victims.
"We have received some kidnapping cases in which we learned that the suspects learned about their victim through Facebook," the official said.
This year, the AKG reported receiving 43 kidnap-for-ransom cases in Luzon and Mindanao, of which 24 were considered solved.
Of the 43 cases, 21 were reported in Luzon while 22 were in Mindanao, mostly linked to the Abu Sayyaf group.
Aspera said the Facebook-related kidnap cases were less than five incidents, but the PNP is taking note of the new tactic.
The PNP advised the public to limit or control the content they post on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking websites, particularly on their wealth or material possessions.
Aspera conceded that social media has become a communication tool in today's Internet age, but warned that criminals have been using the Internet in their illegal activities.
"You should not expose what you have so they won't be interested in you and monitor you," the official said.
This means refraining from posting unnecessary displays of wealth, material possessions or lifestyle, which might entice kidnappers, according to the AKG.
Aspera also advised the public to secure their social media accounts to a private security setting so as to limit the people who view their posts.
The AKG has at least eight kidnapping groups on its target list, and has arrested three leaders of three groups in recent months: Reccinte Padillo, Tyrone dela Cruz, and Martin Lico.
Padillo was tagged as the mastermind in the 2013 kidnapping of businesswoman Sally Chua, who was rescued in Davao City; while Lico leads a kidnap-for-ransom group also involved in robberies. Dela Cruz was charged for the 2013 kidnapping of a Chinese-Filipino couple in Laguna.
In its report, the AKG said it has arrested 65 suspects involved in kidnap-for-ransom cases since January this year, while one suspect was slain in an encounter with authorities.