Facebook identity theft is becoming more common, and you need to know how to protect yourself. Think of the types of information people generally share on Facebook:
- Birthday (even if you don’t share the same birth year, if you share the same high school graduating class, an ID thief can guess at your full birthday)
- Hometown name
- Family names (including mother’s maiden name, or other family names if you share them or you do the family tree apps)
- Pet names
- Favorites (books, authors, historical figures, foods)
- Phone number
Some of this information can be used to directly steal your identity. Other information, like favorites and pet names, are commonly used as passwords or security questions. One of the things scammers from the PSN hack did was to take the user names and passwords used for PSN and try the combinations on major bank websites. A similar tactic can be used with information found on Facebook. Try variations of your name as a username, with your pet’s name on your credit card issuer’s site, and your identity can be quite effectively stolen.
ID thieves could also potentially pose as you over the phone by getting answers to common security questions while trawling Facebook. They wouldn’t need your account number or Social Security number. Just call up and give your name, and then answer a couple of security questions.
Protecting Yourself from Facebook ID Theft
There is no way to completely avoid identity theft. However, you can reduce your susceptibility to it. While on Facebook, be conscious of what information you are sharing. Many people have public profiles without realizing it. Check the privacy settings, and make them stringent enough that only your “friends” can see information about you. Then, be choosy about who gets to “friend” you on Facebook.
You can choose your privacy settings on Facebook, and it is a good idea to check them every so often. Because Facebook changes its default settings regularly and messes with privacy often, you need to review your privacy settings. Do this by using the drop down menu under “Account” in the upper right of your Facebook page. You can choose who gets to see your information and even customize settings for each class of item on your profile.
It is also important to be aware of what information scammers can use to seem legit. It is possible to get your e-mail address from Facebook, and then get the name of a friend you know from somewhere. Then, using information from your two profiles about your interactions, it is possible to pose as a friend “caught overseas and in need of money.”
Yes, Facebook is fun. But you need to be smart about the information you put out there. And, when you do share personal information, you need to do your best to keep it private.