The possibility of having your identity stolen on the Internet is an ever present threat, and one with potentially devastating consequences.
And as with most cyberspace threats, the criminals behind them popularly exploit the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook, to capture their victims.
And whilst Facebook – to some extent – employ safeguards to protect their users from such crime, it is the users themselves who must bear a degree of responsibility to ensure they can identify a scam before they fall victim to it.
So here we list 4 ways to avoid popular identity thieving cons that exploit Facebook.
4. Beware of links in emails and chat messages
Phishing is one of the most prolific methods used to steal a user’s Facebook identity, and once that has been compromised, a criminal can use the hijacked Facebook to launch many other forms of identity fraud.
Most phishing scams concerning Facebook rely on fooling a victim into handing over their Facebook username and password on a spoof website designed to replicate the Facebook login webpage. Victims are directed to these spoof webpages through links in emails and chat messages that appear to have been sent directly from Facebook, or from people that the victim knows.
Avoiding a phishing scam can be simple once armed with this knowledge. Be especially wary of communications that purport to be from Facebook or from friends that request you click a link and enter your Facebook login details, as this could be a spoof website.
Spoof websites can always be easily dismissed as fake because they will not belong to the www.facebook.com domain. Instead the web address (at the top of the browser) will be something different.
3. Suspicious friend requests (and keep your privacy settings strict!)
There is a lot of misinformation circulating the web about the dangers of accepting friend requests from strangers. Much online hearsay asserts that merely accepting friend requests from certain ‘hackers’ or cybercriminals on Facebook will directly result in your Facebook account and/or computer being compromised.
Whilst those rumours are somewhat overblown and technically infeasible, accepting strangers on Facebook is still never a good idea because it gives them access to potentially valuable information about you, not to mention it gives them a way to launch scams aimed at tricking you into doing something you shouldn’t be doing.
You would be surprised what information someone can glean from your account once they are your Facebook friend. Individual nuggets of information about you, such as your email or where you live, are relatively benign by themselves. But when enough information is collected and accumulated about you it can potentially be used to commit identity theft.
Don’t needlessly give strangers access to your life online. Make sure your Facebook account doesn’t allow any details about you to escape beyond your own Facebook friends, and try and limit the amount of personal information you make available [to anyone, including your friends] through your Facebook account. And of course always ensure everyone on your friends list is someone you can trust.
2. Be careful on public Wi-Fi and shared computers
Public Wi-Fi is – from a security standpoint – a nightmare. That is because you are using a network which strangers have access to as well, and this allows them to potentially eavesdrop on the information coming and leaving your computer.
Generally, it is not recommended to use services like Facebook (and especially online banking) on such networks. If you do have to use Facebook, it is recommended to ensure you have HTTPS secure browsing enabled (it’s been enabled by default since 2012, and most users cannot change this option now) which encrypts the information you send.
However also using software like a VPN (virtual private network) that adds a layer of security to your information is also recommended, especially if you use public networks a lot. This prevents certain eavesdropping tools from working.
Also be aware of public computers in computer cafes or libraries, for example. Malware could be installed that is designed to steal your login information. If in doubt, don’t log in!
1. Keep your computer malware free
There are plenty of strains of malware out there that are designed to help a scammer access your Facebook account. These often come in the form of keylogger programs that record every keystroke you make on your computer, including your password.
Other types of malware (or in some cases rogue extensions to your Internet browser) can cause your Facebook account to post automatically, spamming your friends and putting them at risk as well.
In the vast majority of instances, it is the user themselves that was tricked into installing malware onto their own computer. This is why it is so important to not only be aware of the popular techniques used to fool people into getting their computers infected with malicious software, but to also have – and regularly use – up-to-date antivirus software, as well as run regular full system scans. After all, a clean computer is a happy computer!
Written by Craig Charles
Craig operates the popular hoax and scam debunking website ThatsNonsense.com. By publishing up-to-date articles on scams, hoaxes and rumours that circulate the Internet, ThatsNonsense.com aims to teach people how to use the Internet more safely and learn how to better protect their privacy online.