There's a viral video that was big on Facebook last October. Called Take This Lollipop, it starts the way any Facebook app does: by accessing your Facebook account. Once you give the app permission to access your personal information, you see a creepy, sweaty man staring at your Facebook page. As he clicks through your page, photos and location, one point is made very clear. It's not just your friends who look at your social media pages. Sometimes, it's your enemies.
If you're one of the 845 million active Facebook users, or if you participate in other social sites, you should be aware of the privacy issues intrinsic to participating in social media platforms. Here's a closer look at the privacy issues that come with Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and Pinterest, and what you can do to protect yourself.
The ease of creating a Facebook page also means that thieves and people with grudges against you can easily create a Facebook account in your name, using the account to get money from your friends, destroy your reputation or otherwise harm you.
One such example is Diane Solomon. Solomon's neighbor called her to say that Solomon had a chat with the neighbor via Facebook, asking for money. It wasn't actually Solomon, however; at the time of the Facebook chat, she was running in a race in downtown Los Angeles. To make a long story short, Solomon's Yahoo! email account had been hacked, which had then been used to set up a fake Facebook account. The perpetrators then chatted with friends, pressing them for cash. (Story Source: NBC Los Angeles)
When you check-in to a location with FourSquare, your location is only supposed to be available to your friends. Some people have found out the hard way, however, that information's not always private when a hacker is involved.
Take Paige Craig. Craig checked in at her local Gold's Gym with FourSquare. A few minutes later, the front desk notified her that someone was on the phone for her. The man on the phone informed her he'd lost her credit card information and could she please just verify the number for him? Fortunately, Craig hung up on the man – but it shows that FourSquare users, whose location is supposed to be private, may still be vulnerable to stalkers and scammers. (Story Source: Stanford University “Location Privacy”)
The down-side of Pinterest is that an online bulletin board filled with personal photos and posts from everyone – not just friends – means that Pinterest, in the words of one online security expert, is a “Scam heaven.”
The security expert, whose name is Ioana Jelea, posted a fake “Pinterest Giveaway” on the site for a chance to win a new iPhone 4S. All you had to do was fill out a simple survey. That survey, of course, gave away enough personal information that Jelea could have stolen your identity, if she was so inclined. (Story Source: Security News Daily)
Ten Ways to Protect Yourself from Social Media Scams
Don't get scammed or allow your identity to be stolen via social media. Here are ten tips to protect yourself:
- If you use complex passwords (i.e. at least 8 alphanumeric characters in upper and lower case) change it once every 90 days, if simpler passwords are used, change it more frequently.
- Never use the same password twice.
- Don't store passwords in your email account as a way of remembering them.
- Use common sense – don't give out sensitive information to people you don't know or make it publicly available online.
- Scams often begin with an offer for something free, so watch out for “free” offers that then require credit card information or other sensitive data.
- If an offer seems to good to be true, then it probably isn't true.
- If a friend is acting out-of-character or asking for money via social media, speak to them in person before taking any other steps.
- Always remember that strangers who contact you via social media might not be who they say they are.
- Use anti-virus software on your computer and set it to update the virus definitions database automatically.
- If you've used security questions like “What high school did you go to?” or “What was the name of your first pet?” as a back-up for lost passwords, be sure that you do not disclose the same information on any public sites like Facebook.