Facebook threatens students; hackers steal information
One of the newest threats to personal information is connected to the popular social networking web site, Facebook.
While Facebook began as a social site for college students only, it is now open to the general public. This unlimited accessibility and the increase in the popularity of the web site, because of this change, has caused some Facebook users to become the targets of identity theft and identity impersonation.
Students feel their Facebook accounts are safe because they know all of their friends, feel that they have an affinity with others users who are in their networks. They also believe if they limit the amount of personal information they display on their profiles they will be safe. However, even Facebook users who do not share their birth year, email address, or phone number in their profile are potential scam targets.
Facebook scammers have learned how to exploit online friendships and pool from limited information in Facebook user’s info sections to scam a user’s friends into giving them cash.
The most common form of Facebook identity theft happens when an individual who has hacked into someone’s account sends messages to that user’s friends claiming that they have been robbed and asks that user’s friends to wire them money. This is not the first time such a scheme has been used via the Internet, but its presence on Facebook is increasing.
Hotel Restaurant and Management sophomore Erika Lopez has had her Facebook page hacked. Her email address and password on file were changed and her friends were made vulnerable in the process.
“Often, we as students don’t recognize the potential dangers beyond the screen we gaze into on a daily basis,” Lopez said.
Unfortunately for Lopez, as well as other unsuspecting users, being put in this situation sometimes causes an individual to lose access to the account entirely.
Anyone who uses Facebook is susceptible to these scams. And, when hackers impersonate the user of the profile they have hacked and it can be hard for users to identify the scam until after the damage has been done.
In spite of the threat posed by online scammers, Brian Adams, a Hotel Restaurant and Management junior, believes that Facebook is generally secure.
“My advice is to keep as little personal information assigned to your account as possible and you will have less of a threat for identity theft via Facebook predators.” Adams said. “I do not put my number or email on my Facebook so my account has never been violated. Also, all my friends on Facebook have my personal info, so they would be able to contact me directly.”
When asked about her perceived safety over Facebook, Sarah Raslan, Senior Communications major said, “I think it’s much better than Myspace, and it’s as safe as you want it to be.”
Facebook has historically had problems with spam and phishers, but the hacking of user profiles is increasing.
Though there is not much Facebook, or even a user, can do to prevent this, there are some measures that can be put in place.
Not posting personal information such as phone numbers, email accounts, or birth years can help prevent your profile from being hacked. Also, users need to keep in mind that although they may think they are chatting with a ‘friend,’ the person on the other end might not be who they think they are. Caution should be used when a Facebook friend makes an unusual request or posts a link that seems out of character for that friend. By using discretion in all Facebook activities and staying up to date on new Facebook scams, Facebook users can dramatically decrease the likelihood that their accounts will be compromised
Additional reporting by Daniel Renfrow, Misti Mynheir and Cordero Jennings