I have been an Ancestry.com member for a very long time which has been very helpful in some aspects of my research but also has been harmful in some ways as well. Therefore, I tread carefully in the Ancestry.com jungle.
When researching your own family’s genealogy you may choose to be public with your tree, and this can be very helpful in addition with Ancestry DNA’s matching service to help connect you to new family members. Connecting with other’s whom you are related can help to break down those brick walls that you find yourself stuck at. Social Networking can be a huge resource if used in the right way. However, it can also easily spread incorrect data that get’s picked up by other individuals who are matching their trees together.
One downfall of Ancestry.com for example, is if one person has incorrect data and another person copies it to their tree, and then another person copies that information onto their tree. Suddenly, we now have 15 different trees on Ancestry.com that have incorrect information. It is because of this reason, that I never connect with other people’s ancestry trees and advise you to be cautious of copying other people’s research. This happens primarily because people are too busy to take the time to look at the little details that are so important when hunting down your family genealogy. Don’t take the “easy way out.” Do your own research follow the documents and/or DNA results and don’t jump on the bandwagon of incorrect family trees.
Now, I very recently received a message from a fellow AncestryDNA user that made me realize how easy it could be to get me to talk openly about personal subjects to a complete stranger. When you reach out to another person and claim to be someone’s cousin the first thing you both do is obtain as much personal info (where do you live, whose your daddy, do you have siblings etc.) as possible to see how you are connected! Well what better way for a scammer to collect a great deal of information about you…
Now let’s add in the DNA factor.
AncestryDNA provides a list of matches to you and identifies those users who have similar genes. You do have the option to protect your privacy and personal data and not participate in the matching service. However, if you like the idea of benefiting from Social Networking to find connections you are putting yourself in a vulnerable place. So I am here to warn you and advise you to please think carefully before sharing your information.
Today I received a message from an ancestry user:
Despite my usual reservations with emails, getting a message through Ancestry for some reason seems “safer” to me and so immediately I want to reply to this person and tell them information that may be helpful in their search for their biological family. This message is very cordial and politely written. But I really wasn’t comfortable with someone contacting me through a cousin of theirs… instead of their own account. So I stepped back for a moment and started to read it more carefully and started seeing red flags:
Claiming to be using someone else’s account.
Telling me a complete personal story of how old you are, when and where you were born, where you were put up for adoption in the 2nd sentence of your message. (Hoping that I will respond and follow suit).
Claiming to have recently brought to your attention that you may have a biological sister who was put up for adoption before you. Without specifying how you came about this information. (Nice, trying to plant the possibility that I might be your sister, well of course I want to find out more now! I’m extremely interested).
Yet you don’t know any information about your biological parents. (Hmmm strange, how would you have known about this supposed biological sister without any context?).
Claiming you have already connected with another cousin (trying to show trustworthiness)
Telling me that I look like you in my photograph (continuing to build your case and grab my interest).
You give me your complete phone number and email address before I even respond to this initial inquiry!)
Unfortunately, you failed big time because I have absolutely no connection with Texas in any way shape or form.
HOW EXCITING YOU COULD BE MY LONG LOST SISTER THAT I NEVER KNEW ABOUT!!!!
So I decide to try and verify some information given to me. You say that Jack found me down the line of his family tree my picture… okay well let me check and see our DNA matches..
Well what do you know… Jack is not even a DNA match!
Okay well let me go and take a look at his family tree then…
Wow, Jack’s family tree has an entire 3 people in it! Sure maybe he has another private tree but sorry Danielle and Jack… I’m not falling for it and reporting your message as a scam.
But can you see how easily I could have been led to want to give them my information?
Everyone is looking for a good story to tell about their tree, and what better one than to say you found a long lost sister you never knew about!?
Good try though.
If you happen to be a real person Jack, you might not want to offer to help other people by giving them advice on their research, if you are identifying that your experience level is beginner and you have only been on the site for 2 months.