Thwart Facebook Scammers
With over one billion people on Facebook, it’s inevitable that some will be crooks. Over the years, scammers have figured out plenty of ways to get Facebook users to give up important information, including usernames, passwords, cellphone numbers and even credit card data.
You may think you and your kids are savvy enough to avoid sharing that kind of personal detail. Unfortunately, clicking on the wrong Facebook link can make you a victim or an unwitting accomplice who “shares” the scam with friends. The only way to protect yourself and your network is to be aware — and make your kids aware — of the telltale signs that mischief is afoot. Here are some of the most common scams.
Freebies. Everyone loves a deal, but online, as well as off, it’s wise to be skeptical about offers for free gadgets, gift cards, airline tickets and other tantalizing items. Some companies offer legitimate giveaways but don’t take Facebook’s word for it. Go directly to the company’s website to make sure the offer is legit.
Very Special Videos. Hard as it is to resist a video of your favorite celebrity, it’s even harder to ignore a video that arrives with a heading like, “I can’t believe they got you on film!” Clicking on these links often results in a message inviting you to download a new media player. Don’t! If you feel you must see the video in question, search for it by name. If it’s not on YouTube or another well-known site, it’s probably a ruse to get you to download malware.
Apps and Ads. Most apps and ads are damaging only because they waste your time. Some, however, are nothing more than pretexts for collecting personal information. Be suspicious whenever you are asked to provide a username, password or other identifying data. If the app steers you to a new page, check the domain name to see if it’s long and strange-looking. Any legitimate e-commerce site will have a web address that starts with “https.” Also, never respond to pop-ups that ask you to fill out a survey or download software.
Facebook Features. Some scams promise to improve your Facebook experience by, for example, changing the look of your page or allowing you to see a list of people who have looked at your profile. Facebook doesn’t allow other companies to mess with the structure of their site, so don’t even consider downloading anything that suggests otherwise. Also, some scammers claim to be part of the Facebook security team and threaten to close your account of you don’t provide account information. On its website, Facebook makes it clear that the company will never ask for an account password, social security number, credit card or pin number. If you are worried about the status of your account, go directly to the Facebook Help Section.
Links from Friends. Scammers take advantage of the fact that Facebook users trust their friends, so you have to be wary of links even when they are embedded in posts or messages from people you know. If a link seems out of character, send a private message. It’s possible your friend has been hacked and doesn’t realize what’s being posted in his or her name.
If you or your kids realize after the fact that you’ve clicked on something you shouldn’t have, don’t panic. Here are specific steps that will restore security to your Facebook account:
Change your password at facebook.com/hacked. Choose a sequence of characters that will mean something to you but not to others. If you’ve used the same password for other accounts, change those passwords, too.
Delete every copy of the scammer’s post or link so other people won’t get infected. To remove a post, move the cursor to the upper right corner. When the pencil icon appears, click “delete.”
Alert your friends. Tell them your account has been compromised so they should be cautious about messages that appear to be from you.
Review your “likes” to be sure you actually added each one. Go through your app list at https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications. If you see one you don’t recognize, delete it.
Run anti-virus software. Update it if necessary. Activate the “Safe” feature on your browser so you and your kids will get warnings about risky websites.
Tighten privacy and security settings by going to the Account Settings section of Facebook (in the upper right corner). While you’re there, click on “Active Sessions” to be sure no one else is logging into your account.
Report scams and other problems by clicking on the “Report a Problem” button under “Settings.”
The people who engineer Facebook scams are nothing if not creative, so make it a habit to visit websites that report on new scams and hoaxes. At Snopes.com, put Facebook into the site’s search engine to up the real story behind a variety of common schemes. Facecrooks.com, a website devoted entirely to Facebook, has a helpful section called Scam Watch.
Like any other neighborhood, Facebook is populated mostly by trustworthy people. When those people watch out for each other, the occasional scoundrel is less likely to find gullible victims.
Carolyn Jabs raised three computer savvy kids including one with special needs. She is working on a book about constructive responses to conflict. Visit growing-up-online.com to read other columns.