If you don’t have a Facebook account, you’re one of only a few. Facebook has more than two billion users each month. You might think its figures would trend downward after recent scandals, yet despite the news surrounding the company and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, the number of active users has increased.
While Facebook’s extensive reach makes it a great place to stay up-to-date with family and friends, it also creates privacy concerns. After the Cambridge Analytica news broke, in which it became clear that Facebook sold user data to a private firm, you may have become concerned with the company using your personal data without permission. The best way to protect yourself from Facebook’s access to your information is to be aware of its data policies and to limit your use of the platform.
Your other privacy concern may be that cyber thieves can prey on your information, such as by stealing your identity for catfishing or financial reasons. This is a real risk, yet one you can do a great deal to mitigate. To avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime, learn the best ways to secure your identity while using Facebook.
Understanding the risks
Cybercrime encompasses criminal activity involving a computer, network device, network, and/or the internet. In some situations, a computer or network is the victim of a cyberattack. Hackers want access to a machine or network for a particular reason, such as to gather private data. In other situations, a computer or network is used as a weapon. This can be through the use of Ransomware, which is a computer virus that locks your data and files. You are asked to pay a ransom for the key to access your files.
Cybercrime poses a threat for a number of reasons, one of which is identity theft. As you use Facebook and other social platforms, you eventually publish a great deal of personal information. After years of online activity, another person may be able to obtain your full name, where you went to school, where you work, and the neighborhood you live in. If a hacker were able to see your private messages and use of the social media platform, they may be able to obtain your phone number, address, and credit or debit card information. All of this information could be used to open up new credit card accounts, obtain loans, and conduct other financial activity in your name.
Mitigating the consequences of identity theft can be a long and tedious process. “Just imagine not having your credit card available—even if you wanted to use cash, you may need your ATM access card to get it, be it a debit card or credit card or bank-issued identity card,” says Gary M. Schober, Data Breach & Cybersecurity Practices leader of Hodgson Russ. “The aggravation is pretty serious and material. And the only way to fix an identity theft is to go through the process for all these different items that have been impacted by the theft. For example, your credit cards. Your bank info. Your accounts where all the different places where you have your credit card on file—all the places where you have your bank account on file.”
Identity theft could seriously impact your financial stability and the damage can be difficult to undo. In the event that cybercrime leads to the theft and abuse of your personal information, prevention is better than the cure.
Securing your identity on Facebook
There are many steps you can take to protect yourself while having a Facebook account.
- Use two-factor authentication. When you use two-factor authentication, there is an extra layer of security. To sign into Facebook, the site will require more than a password. You must input another piece of information, like a one-time code sent to your phone.
- Use a strong password. Strong passwords are a basic yet crucial step in preventing any online account from being hacked. Your password should not be something another person could easily guess. It should not be a real word. Instead, it is best for it to be a mixture of lower and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Do not save your password. You may be in the habit of saving all of your website passwords in your browser. This is a bad habit that leaves you vulnerable. Instead, sign out each time you use Facebook, then sign back in later.
- Always lock your phone or computer. If you plan on saving your password anyway, be sure to always set your phone, laptop, computer, and other devices to lock a few seconds after you stop using them. Also never lend your devices to people you do not explicitly trust to keep from logging into your account.
- Activate sign-in notifications. Facebook has a feature that lets you receive an email or text whenever someone logs into your account. This helps you detect when you have been hacked and helps you quickly mitigate any repercussions by signing the other person off and changing your password.
- Tighten your Facebook privacy settings. Facebook has security and privacy features. Set them all to private. Unless you have a business or influencer page, your account should be for friends and family only.
Stay updated on Facebook’s security features
When you are trying to keep your identity safe on Facebook, you’ll probably do some Googling. That’s a great place to begin. Just be sure to use Google Tools to look for information posted in the past month or even week. Facebook constantly changes, and an article about Facebook security from a few years ago will be out of date today. For example, since the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress, Facebook has announced it will make security easier for users. You will soon have a centralized security and privacy page. Keep in mind, Facebook’s policies and layout are constantly evolving.
Your account was compromised – now what?
If you’ve noticed signs that your identity has been stolen or that something is wrong with your finances, it’s best to take action right away. Do everything you can to secure your accounts and stop any further illegal transactions from being conducted. This may include updating your passwords on your email, social medial, bank, and credit card accounts. If any of your financial accounts have been affected, contact the bank or credit card company right away to file a report.
If your identity has been significantly damaged, such as if your money was stolen, there are new credit cards in your name, there are mortgages or auto loans in your name, or your credit score has dropped, contact an attorney right away. If the offender is caught, you also may also have a civil legal claim against that person.
A lawyer can guide you through discovering the illegal transactions and rebuilding your identity and credit history and can even assist you in contacting law enforcement if you choose to do so. “I usually prefer to bring law enforcement in if for no other reason than that the more experience law enforcement has with these things, the smarter they get,” Schober says. “And the smarter they get, the better job they can do at stopping the bad guys.”