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On the Coast Magazine

Growing Up Online

11/04/2013 11:18AM ● Published by Nancy Babin

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 user names, passwords, cellphone numbers and even credit card data.  

You may that you and your kids are savvy enough not to share 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 tell-tale 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, etc.  Some companies do offer legitimate giveaways but don’t take Facebook’s word for it.  Go directly to the website of the company that is making the offer to be sure it’s legit. 

 Very Special Videos.   Hard as it is to resist a video of your favorite celebrity, it’s even harder to turn down 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 ads and apps 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 user name, password or any other kind of identifying data.   If the app steers you to a new page, check the domain name to see if it’s long and weird-looking.  Any legitimate e-commerce site will have a web address that starts with https.    Never respond to pop-ups that ask you to fill out a survey or download an additional bit of 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—a weight loss message from someone who hates dieting—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, 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 scammy post or link post so other people won’t get infected.  To remove a post, move the cursor to its 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 any messages that seem to be from you.  

·        Review your “likes” to be sure you actually added each one.  Go through your app list too at https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications.  If you see any you don’t recognize, delete it.   

·        Run your 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 (upper right corner).  While you are there, click on “Active Sessions” to be sure no one else is logging onto 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, putting Facebook into their search engine brings 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, M.A., raised three computer savvy kids including one with special needs.  She is working on a book about constructive responses to conflict. 

 


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