Is someone pretending to be you or your business on Facebook? It is extremely dangerous and is more common than you think. Discover how you can stop it.
Imagine trying to log onto your personal Facebook account, and instead of seeing your recent timeline, you notice a strange message on the screen which says:
[notice type=”alert”]Your account has been disabled for pretending to be someone else, which goes against the Facebook Community Standards.[/notice]
You know that you didn’t try to pretend to be someone else on Facebook, so what’s going on? The truth may be that someone else is trying to steal your online identity and impersonate you.
Impersonation is a growing problem on Facebook, which not enough people are talking about or understand the extent of the problem. Everyone from corporate executives and celebrities to grandmothers is at risk of having their personal information co-opted.
But why are people doing it, what are the inherent risks, and how can you protect yourself against Facebook impersonators?
Why are People Impersonating Strangers on Facebook?
Like any other identity theft, there are many reasons behind hijacking an identity on Facebook. Creating a fake account may be the first stage of social engineering by someone seeking to commit financial fraud against a wealthy individual or a company. Or it may be an attempt to ruin the target’s online or offline reputation. Increasingly, nefarious groups are even harvesting random Facebook users to sell followers to others. Whatever the motivation impostors to set up fake accounts, the practice can lead to substantial social and financial repercussions for people as well as businesses.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
With so little personal risk to themselves and such an enormous upside, cybercriminals are unlikely to stop faking accounts on Facebook any time soon. While the company is aware of the problem, with over a billion active accounts, it isn’t able to curb all the abuse. That means it is up to you. Here are five things you can do to make it harder for scammers to take over your identity.
- Search for yourself or your company on Facebook. From time to time, conduct a search for yourself or your company on Facebook. This is particularly important if you do not have an official presence on the site. If you notice anything suspicious, you need to report it straight away. You can use Facebook tools to report the impersonation. It is a good idea to make checking for online impersonation an ongoing part of your cybersecurity routine.
- Make yourself unsearchable by other people. You may have to give up the possibility of reconnecting with an old friend, but consider making your profile unsearchable. Doing this will prevent random account harvesting by bots and reduce the chance of becoming a victim of impersonation. You can make your account unsearchable by going to your privacy settings and selecting “No” for every option under the “Who can look me up” heading.
- Update and monitor your security settings. The more personal information you make public, the easier it is for someone else to create a fake account in your name. It is safest to limit who can view your information to only “friends.” Even expanding your profile to being viewable by “friends of friends” can significantly increase your chances of becoming a victim of impersonation. Try to avoid setting your account to viewable by “everyone” unless you have a specific reason to do it.
- Ignore friend requests. It isn’t rude to ignore friend requests which appear out of the blue, it’s just safe. Unless you are expecting a friend request, it is probably not legitimate. You should never agree to become a friend with someone you don’t know, and even if you recognize the name, try to verify the request before agreeing to it.
- Watch what you post. People tend to overshare on social media platforms, so be careful with what you post online, even if you restrict your privacy settings. A good rule-of-thumb is to avoid providing any information you wouldn’t want a stranger to know about you or your business. This includes taking a second look at your photos. If you haven’t been particular discerning in the past about what you posted, spend the time to clean up your profile.
Impersonation on social media is a new reality. Although there is nothing you to do to guarantee your safety, taking the steps above can help mitigate it.
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