NEW YORK (AP) — After Emily Pina’s parents separated, the 27-year-old in Phoenix said she spent years listening to her dad beg for the return of his family. He turned up the volume once her mom started dating.
“It’s the same thing as Kanye and Kim,” she said.
And like the celebrity couple, her dad’s digital life played a role in his breakup as it often does in contentious divorces.
Kanye West, now legally known as Ye, has gone quiet on Instagram after weeks of ranting publicly about Kim Kardashian in the name of fatherhood, which many saw as bullying and intimidation. His targets included Kardashian, her boyfriend, Pete Davidson, and Trevor Noah, who weighed in on “The Daily Show.”
In Pina’s case, she said her parents’ divorce was impacted in part when her father, who has since died, was scammed out of $10,000 after meeting a woman online and attempting to bring her to the U.S. She turned out to be a man at a computer. In other cases, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are weaponized directly against an estranged spouse as divorce proceedings progress. Still more divorce cases include digital theft of emails, joint bank accounts and other shared logins.
Dan Stock, a New York family law attorney, warns that sounding off against a partner digitally can have lasting consequences when texts, posts, photos and other wrongs are hauled into court. That’s especially true when child custody arrangements are on the table.
“Even Kanye shouldn’t be trash talking on social media unless, as may be the case, he has a divorce court death wish,” Stock said. “It’s one thing to be the victim of a social media bully, but it’s an early holiday present to the case you are making if you are that victim’s divorce attorney.”
FILE - Kanye West, left, and Kim Kardashian attend the WSJ. Magazine Innovator Awards on Nov. 6, 2019, in New York. Kanye West, now legally known as Ye, has gone quiet on Instagram after weeks of ranting publicly about Kim Kardashian in the name of fatherhood. He cast a wide net of bullying, threats and slurs, including those aimed at Kardashian's boyfriend, Pete Davidson. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
The sentiment was echoed by a dozen other lawyers who handle divorce, child custody and relationship abuse cases, especially those in California and a handful of other states with relatively new legal standards of “coercive control” as a form of non-physical abuse. The laws allow judges leeway in doling out punishments.
Advocates for victims of harassment and abuse agreed. They said acting out online in pending domestic abuse and divorce cases is routine.
“It’s really interesting with Kim. She’s pretty much the most protected woman in America, right? All the resources. And she is a great example of how even if you have all the resources, it doesn’t matter,” said Lenora Claire, a stalking and harassment survivor and victims’ advocate in Beverly Hills, California.
“It’s been really painful to watch but also really eye opening for the public, who maybe aren’t as enmeshed in this issue as I am,” she said.
Katie Hood, CEO of the nonprofit One Love Foundation, has seen numerous occasions of social media turned against one person by another in divorces and breakups. Her organization provides young people with tools and resources to spot signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships.
“A breakup is the most dangerous time in a relationship. That’s when the abusive person’s control has been broken and they do a lot of things to try to wrest back control: control the narrative, control how their ex-partner is perceived,” she said.
Watching the Kim and Ye divorce play out on social media has resonated with many victims of relationship abuse, Hood said.
“A lot of people I’ve talked to are saying this reminds me of my ex. This reminds me of how my ex responded to the breakup,” she said. “Social media is an amplification point, a new channel. In the old days, before we had all this, you couldn’t see how your ex was moving on with their life or how they were spending their time or who they were with.”
Years ago, Hood recalled, a friend went through a breakup and her ex tried to sabotage her through phone calls to employers and family members about what an awful person she was, telling secrets and threatening to share harmful photos.
“Well now you just have to press post on social media or go to LinkedIn or set up fake accounts and bomb people with information that can really be damaging,” she said.
There have been a couple of visible consequences for West. He was banned from Instagram for 24 hours and he was disinvited from performing at the April 3 Grammy Awards after slinging a racial slur at Noah, who hosted the ceremony. Ye wound up winning two Grammys but was a no-show as an audience member. He dropped out of headlining at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, according to TMZ and other reports, giving organizers less than two weeks to find a replacement. He hasn’t publicly spoken a word of it since.
In February, Kardashian spoke up in a Los Angeles Superior Court filing about her estranged husband’s unsettling online behavior, urging a judge to ignore Ye’s attempts to slow down their divorce and end their marriage as soon as possible. She was successful, after arguing in part:
“Mr. West has disseminated on social media the parties’ private communications and misinformation about personal family matters and co-parenting, which has caused emotional distress.”
West has been open about his mental health struggles and his diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
“When you’re in this state, you’re hyper-paranoid about everything, everyone,” West told David Letterman in 2019. “This is my experience. Other people have different experiences. Everyone now is an actor. Everything’s a conspiracy. You feel the government is putting chips in your head. You feel you’re being recorded. You feel all these things.”
Ari Lightman, a professor of digital media at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, studies online communities and the downsides of digital security and privacy. Divorce, he said, plays into broader issues on social media.
“In a sense, using social media this way is a protest movement, right? And there’s a very vocal group online that’s almost acting as judge and jury,” Lightman said. “I really like what Trevor Noah said, that we shouldn’t cancel Kanye but counsel him.”
Dan Jaffe, a family law attorney in Los Angeles, has handled wealthy, high-profile clients for decades.
“These are real people with real feelings. Things get lost and convoluted when we use the media to try and resolve these factors. The lawyers should be resolving these factors. Her lawyers absolutely have to be thinking about going in and getting court orders for a temporary restraining order for domestic violence. In California, it can be based on emotional upset, not necessarily physical abuse,” he said.
Receiving orders of protection for such behavior due to coercive control is far from guaranteed, said another longtime Los Angeles divorce attorney for the rich and famous, Alexandra Leichter. The standards offer hope for victims but there remains a reluctance among some judges to weigh in on free speech grounds. There’s no doubt, she said, that digital technology has “opened up a whole new branch of coercive control.”
Judges can “order them to stop, not to use the media, email, not to contact the person,” Leichter said. “Does it always work? I’d be lying if I told you that it does. It’s a much more complex situation with electronic media.”
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The internet can feel packed with scams sometimes, especially for anyone who’s had their credit card or other information stolen. But most scams fall into a small variety of types that are easy to identify and avoid once you know about them.
There are only so many ways to reinvent the wheel—scammers will usually fall into a set number of categories. Twingate assembled a list of common online scams that internet users should be wary of, drawing on research from government organizations, payment processors, and tech companies.
One of the major categories of scamming is called social engineering. An old-fashioned method that still works surprisingly well, social engineering is any fraud where a human being communicates with you to obtain information in person, online, or over the phone. Scammers will use manipulative, deceptive, or psychological tactics to get someone to reveal confidential information.
As our lives increasingly have shifted online, scammers have followed, posing as everything from fake online boyfriends to made-up charities. So the next time you get a voicemail claiming to be from Microsoft, an email that says your antivirus service is out of date, or a pop-up ad from “newy0rktimes.com,” take a few seconds and think about whether it's a genuine message before doing anything. Continue reading to learn about the most common online scams today.
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Phishing is one of the most common online scams. It’s a form of social engineering, meaning a scam in which the “human touch” is used to trick people. One offline form of phishing is when you receive a scam phone call where someone claims to be calling from the fraud department at your bank and requests your account number as verification.
With online phishing, scammers do the same kind of thing but use emails and links to fraudulent websites to fool users. In your spam folder, you’ll often see messages claiming to be from Bank of America and others. These links lead to imitation bank sites designed to capture your personal banking information.
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These email messages are notorious—and the stuff of internet legend: “Hello sir, I have a huge sum to send you!” In this scam, a forlorn prince, bank manager, church reverend, or otherwise reputable-sounding stranger has a large amount of money that they need you to hold for them. All you have to do is send them several hundred or thousand dollars to cover some kind of transactional cost upfront.
Never believe any stranger who wants to send you money, and listen to your gut. If something sounds too good to be true, it is highly likely that it is a scam.
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Romance scams are one of the darkest and most sinister scams because of the time investment and emotions involved. Romance scammers pretend to be regular people, often older people, who are looking for love and want to meet eligible singles in other countries. They'll build an emotional connection with their target by exchanging romantic messages and pretending to be in love.
The scam comes in when, eventually, a series of misfortunes befall the romantic partner. They might plan a visit to finally meet—but suddenly won't have money to pay for the plane ticket. Then they’re hospitalized with a mystery illness and need money to pay the bill. This continues until the victim grows suspicious of the mounting costs.
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Formjacking is a web scam that works the same way as a credit card skimmer does in real life. You go to a website to place an order and enter your information as usual. The transaction even goes through and seems to be fine, except that some code hacked into the website has copied your financial data to someone else.
The owners of the website may not even realize something is happening because they don’t pay close attention to their infrastructure. Make sure the websites you deal with are secure.
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Phony tech support is a form of social engineering. This scam may come as an email or a phone call, claiming that your computer has been compromised in some way and that you must call a number or visit a website to fix it.
From there, the scammer may install malware like keyboard capture software (or worse). On the phone, they may request remote access to your computer to help you. These scammers often claim to be from Microsoft or Apple as a way to establish legitimacy.
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Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that is installed without your knowledge. This is usually from an email or fraudulent site, meaning it also uses phishing to imitate your bank or another institutional website. Someone calls or emails with a link that installs the ransomware on your machine. What makes ransomware different is what comes next.
The software locks certain kinds of information on your machines, like your saved documents, photos, and other files. You have to pay to unlock the data and get your files, although the FBI cautions against actually paying.
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Scareware is a form of manipulative scamming that threatens users by making them believe they need new software on their machines. One of the common forms is to tell users they need new antivirus software and to offer that software from a fraudulent source.
It’s often easy to tell these websites or emails apart from real ones: Look closely at the URLs or email addresses, which usually have strange spellings or other clues that signal you’re not dealing with legitimate companies.
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Sextortion is an especially grim crime that targets minors, although it can also affect adults. Now that so many people meet romantic partners online, it’s common to exchange explicit photos. That’s also true of teenagers or even of younger children, who can find themselves in online relationships with people who ask for personal information and photos.
Once someone has this material, they can use it as a way to demand more and will threaten to share info or post photos publicly if their target refuses. Unlike the other crimes on this list, sextortion doesn’t always have financial goals.
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Crowdfunding and mutual aid are becoming more common as a way for people to share resources and help others pay for medical bills and other costs, or to donate following natural disasters. Unfortunately, this well-meaning way to help others in the community has also been targeted by scammers through charity and disaster fraud.
Scammers can make fake Twitter accounts to imitate people in need. They’ll even set up bots to make new accounts that look like your friend’s account to reply with Paypal links that redirect to the scammer. If you aren’t sure about the credibility of a group or crowdfunding page, it is always best to seek more information.
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This scam is simple and it’s a variation of an age-old, real-life scam. Think of those signs you see on street corners that say, “I make $16,000 a month working from home!” When you call, these people want you to buy training materials to become a real estate agent or something similar.
The same is true of many online ads that say you can work from home and make $500 a day or some other attractive amount. The best advice is also the oldest: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
This story originally appeared on Twingate and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.