By Marc Larrivee, CIP National IT Administrator
Identity theft happens. In the U.S., there are 8.5 million incidents of identity theft in virtual and real settings every year. On Facebook, with over 150 million users, and 650,000 new users signing up every day, a few wolves sneak in to prey on friends.
Facebook fosters friendships. Students, parents, teachers, and workers find, contact, and share with friends. Students rush home, hop online, and share the latest news. Parents reach classmates that they haven’t heard from in years. Making friends has become easy.
The friend making may be a little too innocent. In a recent study within Facebook, a group created a mock person, and sent friends invitations to 200 random people. Of these, 87 accepted the invitation without knowing a thing about that person. Many shared personal information such as birth dates, pictures, email’s, addresses, and phone numbers. While the vast majority of contacts are innocent, and friends are just what they seem, a few are not.
Thieves and sociopaths, ever on the lookout for victims, have taken advantage of this openness. The exchange above is modeled on actual requests that identity thieves have made after accessing someone’s account, changed the password, and then hit up friends for cash. One person wired over $1000 to help out a “friend” who was “stuck in London”. Others have created accounts, befriended somone, obtained personal information, and then extorted money, favors, or actions under threat of revealing that same information. Facebook claims that less than 1% of its users may be malicious. Of course, even 0.1% of 150 million is still a large number.
Facebook encourages people to protect themselves to:
Limit your personal information: specifically, don’t post your birthdate, phone number, address…since your real friends already know these,
Manage your privacy settings:
-Profile: Privacy section: select “Only my friends”
-Search: Privacy Section: select “only my friends” for whom can find you.
-Poke: Privacy section: expose only “Basic Info” on pokes, messages, and friend requests
Accept friends only from people that you know
Limit the time & place data that you share: this can be used to follow you.
Remember that even people that we know can be malicious
(17 % of identity theft is by someone that the victim knows)
A Facebook Story
tod: hey stu
stu: hey….what’s up
tod: I’m in a bind
stu: what happened?
tod: Carol and I are stuck at the airport
tod: yeah, I took her out, and forgot to bring the cash for a meal.
stu: why not just come back?
tod: and look like an idiot?
stu: what do you need?
tod: if you could wire just a spot of cash to cover me, I’ll get it back to you…
stu: cash? from me? what school did we go to together anyway?
tod: come on, what is this? twenty questions?….I’m desperate!
stu: what? too tough a question for you? Do I look like an idiot?
Friends are important. With friends we share, work, cry, and laugh. We think about the friends that we want. As friends treat us with care and respect, we slowly deepen our trust. That prudence, from a lifetime of learning, makes a difference online as well. For more information on these topic, please see the links below: