Avoid These Social Media Mistakes Unless You Want Your Identity Compromised
Halt hackers in their tracks with these tips
It’s harmless fun as you’re surfing Facebook late at night: You copy and paste quiz results, sharing the make and model of your first car, your zodiac sign, and the names of your kids. A week later, your bank calls to alert you of a potential unauthorized purchase on your account. Are the two events related?
They might be, according to cyber-security experts. Quizzes and memes like the one described above encourage you to share information—the same information you often use for your passwords and security questions on banking websites and apps linked to your financial information.
Increasingly, hackers and identity thieves are using social media to obtain the virtual keys to your accounts, use your credit cards, and even create new accounts in your name. By understanding their tactics, you can take simple steps to stop them.
Fake social media accounts give hackers access to your info
Hackers often create fake social media accounts, especially on Facebook, and then send out batches of friend requests. Once you’ve accepted the friend request, the hacker can easily view information such as your date of birth, the town you live in, where you were born, and even when you are away on vacation. They can use this information to hack your financial accounts or even break into your home while you’re out.
Thumbs-up tip: Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. If you are using Facebook to promote your business or build a personal brand, set up a “Page” instead, and don’t share any personal information there.
Duplicate accounts fool people into thinking hackers are friends
Sometimes, a hacker will create a duplicate account. Your cousin who got miffed because you forgot to wish her a happy birthday? Check your friends list; she didn’t actually un-friend you. Someone created an account using her name and information. If you accept the friend request, that hacker now has access to personal information you may share on Facebook, including your date of birth and information you may share that would help someone guess your passwords.
Thumbs-up tip: Before you accept a friend request from someone you thought you were already connected to, double check. Are they who they say they are?
Ignore direct messages from people you don’t know
Most people today ignore emails from Nigerian princes asking for bank account information. Today’s hackers are more slick, instead posing as someone you know (see above) and making their move through direct messages, where they can gain your trust and then ask for cash or account information.
Thumbs-up tip: If you receive a message from someone who claims to be a close friend or relative in trouble, call them directly. If they really are in trouble, they will be happy to hear your voice. But it’s more likely you’ll both have a good laugh at the hacker’s expense.
Beware of memes and quizzes
Those fun quizzes that reveal your past life or predict you’ll marry Mark Wahlberg also present a problem. Many are hosted on disreputable websites and exist just to plant spyware on your computer. These viruses can track your every move, and the next time you log in to your bank account online, the hacker can access all your information.
Thumbs-up tip: Don’t be tempted by Facebook quizzes and games. If you want to pass time online mindlessly (not that there’s anything wrong with that), download a “real” game like Candy Crush. Better yet, put your screen time to better use and check your credit score.
If it seems fishy, it probably is
You might read some of these and think, “Well, I’d never fall for that!” But many people do, which is why hackers continue using these tactics. In the heat of the moment, when you’re tired or bored or stressed out, it’s easy to forget that not everything is as it seems in social media.