The Week in Tech: Facebook Romance Scams and Banking Hacks

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Hi, we’re Pui-Wing Tam and Jim Kerstetter, tech editors filling in for Jamie Condliffe while he’s on vacation. Here’s a look at the week’s tech news:

Facebook has connected the world, which brings many benefits for communication and the dissemination of information. But there’s a downside that hasn’t gotten much attention until recently: the love scams that proliferate on the social network.

In these scams, some Facebook users — often young men in Nigeria — steal the digital photos and identities of Americans in the Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force. Posing as the service members, the scammers sweet talk vulnerable and lonely women, forming an emotional connection — and eventually asking for their money.

Our colleague Jack Nicas followed one military love hoax. He found Renee Holland, who had an online friendship with a person she thought was an American soldier named Michael Chris. She sent Mr. Chris $26,000 to $30,000, much of the life savings that she and her husband had socked away.

But Mr. Chris was not a real person. The photo that Ms. Holland saw was of Sgt. Daniel Anonsen of the Marine Corps — and he was contending with dozens of impostor Facebook and Instagram accounts, and had no idea who Ms. Holland was.

In December, Ms. Holland’s husband, Mark Holland, killed her and her father before turning the gun on himself. Mr. Holland did not leave any indication of a motive.

The New York Times published her story last weekend and aired it in an episode of our television show, “The Weekly.”

”In some of her final conversations with me, Ms. Holland expressed how thrilled she was that we were covering her story,” Jack said of the tragedy. “She said she wanted to raise awareness about the issue and prevent future scams.”

The story caught the attention of Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois. Mr. Kinzinger, a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, is one of the many American service members who have been ensnared in these scams.

For years, Mr. Kinzinger said, impostors have been posing as him or using his image to trick people out of money. As much as he has complained, the problem has persisted.

On Wednesday, he sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, requesting more information on what the company is doing to prevent such fraud on its sites.

“There needs to be accountability for this issue that can, quite frankly, destroy lives,” he wrote to Mr. Zuckerberg. “Facebook has an immensely significant role to play in getting this situation under control.”

Mr. Kinzinger said he was also in the early stages of preparing legislation to address the issue.

For financial institutions, it has become a way of life: fending off endless hacking attempts. Hundreds of thousands a day in some cases. But sometimes they get through, and the apologies begin.

On Monday, the federal law enforcement authorities said a Seattle woman who used to be an engineer at Amazon had hacked into Capital One’s computer systems and obtained the personal data of tens of millions of customers.

It appears that the bank made a fairly simple mistake that allowed the hacker to break in: a “misconfiguration” in a firewall. A firewall, one of the oldest digital security tools, acts like a gate on a network, keeping most traffic out and a few things in. It is usually up to network administrators to decide what should be allowed in, and the authorities said the hacker had been able to take advantage of a mistake the administrators had made.

No doubt, it was embarrassing for the bank. But successful hacking attempts are shockingly common. Already this year, there have been 3,494 successful cyberattacks against financial institutions, according to reports filed with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, our colleagues Stacy Cowley and Nicole Perlroth reported.

Another big number to keep in mind: Mastercard, for example, combats some 460,000 intrusion attempts in a typical day, up 70 percent from a year ago.

Successful banking hacks? Be surprised it doesn’t happen more often.

It appears that iPhone sales are still slowing. On Tuesday, Apple said that its net income had fallen 13 percent and that its revenue had risen 1 percent in the latest quarter, with iPhone sales continuing to decline. But there were gains in the company’s services and wearables business.

Imagine a bicycle built for none. A team of researchers in China is rethinking autonomous transportation with a souped-up bicycle that can navigate on its own. The demonstration is really a way to show how a new computer chip tailored for artificial intelligence can work.

■ EBay accused three Amazon managers of illegally conspiring to poach its sellers in a federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday. EBay first raised concerns that Amazon was approaching its sellers last fall in another lawsuit that has since moved to arbitration.

Children as young as 11 have been added to a facial recognition database maintained by the New York Police Department. Elected officials and civil rights groups say the police have been doing this with little public scrutiny, and they worry about the frequency of false positives in young faces.

Uber is laying off about 400 people, or a third of its marketing department, as it tries to whittle down costs. Many observers were stunned that the ride-hailing company actually had 1,200 people on its marketing team.

Jamie Condliffe will be back to write the newsletter next Friday.