Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress on April 10 and 11, 2018, to answer questions about the app’s privacy and security settings. The testimony suggests the company’s policies may be changing, but is there anything you can do to make your Facebook profile less vulnerable to identity theft?
Skimmers and Scammers Use Facebook Profiles to Steal Personal Data
Wherever large amounts of consumer data are gathered online, it attracts identity thieves and others who would use that data for illegal purposes. In the Cambridge Analytica controversy the purpose was political – to create profiles to predict voting patterns and sway elections. But in other cases, skimmers and scammers are looking for data as a form of identity theft. Even seemingly innocent posts can give scammers important details about your life. They can use that information to open bank accounts and credit cards, get access to funds at your bank, or otherwise act as you online.
Facebook’s user agreement requires users to consent to Facebook’s use of their profile information, contacts, and information they share online for commercial purposes. It’s a main part of the company’s business model. Part of what makes this so dangerous is Facebook’s policy requiring users to use their real names.
Depending on your privacy settings, you may also be sharing important personal information with the world at large or with your contacts’ “friends”, who you don’t know. If the recent news about Facebook’s privacy and security policies is making you nervous, here are a few ways you can make your Facebook profile less vulnerable to identity theft.
Set Privacy Settings to Friends Only
The first step to making your Facebook profile less vulnerable to identity theft is to tighten your formal privacy settings. By limiting access to people that you have approved as friends you can reduce the chances of identity thieves skimming personal information from your posts.
Clean Out Your Friends List
Anyone who uses Facebook has received friend requests from people they don’t know. Refuse these requests and remove anyone you don’t have close connection with from your friends list. All those connections aren’t worth the chance that one of those “friends” is really trying to steal your identity.
Hide Your Birthday (or at Least the Year) from Your Profile
One survey suggested almost half of Facebook users post their birthday on social media. But your name and date of birth are sometimes all a person needs to create false accounts in your name. Facebook allows you to hide your birth year, or your full birthday, from other users online. Taking advantage of this option will make your Facebook profile less vulnerable to identity theft.
Take Your Maiden Name Out of Your Screen Name
Some people, especially women, add their maiden name to their screen name to make it easier to connect to old friends. But doing that could be threatening your children’s cybersecurity. A mother’s maiden name is one of the most popular security questions online. If a skimmer can connect mother and child, he or she can get one step closer to imitating your family members online.
Hide Your Contact Details
There isn’t much reason to make your phone number or home address visible on Facebook or other social media accounts. By keeping those details private, you can make it harder for scammers looking for targets for:
· One-ring scams
· Jury-duty scams
· Package delivery scams
· Fake utility worker visits
Think About Silly Posts Before You Share Them
It seems like every day there is a new image on Facebook inviting users to put together seemingly random details about their personal lives to “find out your fairy name” or “learn what this year will have for you”. These silly posts are gold mines for identity thieves. Before you comment on or share one of these posts, think about what information you are making available. Keep in mind, your comments may be visible to the public, depending on your friend’s privacy settings.
Internet privacy and security may seem impossible in today’s digital age. But there are some simple things you can do to make your Facebook profile less vulnerable to identity theft, and limit your exposure online.