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Social Networking - Are Hackers and Criminals Viewing My Personal Information on Facebook?
A friend's recent status update:
"DID YOU KNOW...I did this and it is actually true for everyone who is my facebook friend: Your phone number may now be on facebook! Go to the top right of your screen, click Account then Edit Friends. Go to the left side of your screen and click Phonebook. Everyone's phone numbers are now being published. Repost to let your friends kno..."
After seeing this post for the second time, I decided I had to respond by writing this hub with some information to keep people safer on facebook. I'm writing in order to not only let the public know, but also to pass along some additional information to my own facebook friends.
I hope they all come to read this--especially those in their 20s and younger, along with ALL PARENTS!
I read recently that facebook now gets more traffic than Google. It's no wonder there are so many hackers on facebook. I'm sure you--just like me--have either had your own account hacked into or have had some of your facebook friends' accounts hacked into. You know immediately a friend's account has been "hacked" because you begin getting weird posts on your facebook wall or videos sent to your inbox that are not typical of your friend. (Don't ever open up those emails or watch the videos sent. You may open up your computer to viruses and spyware.)
So, you and/or your friend change the facebook password and everything is fine. Or is it?
Nope. Sadly no.
Remember the status update I quoted? It's true. If you've listed your phone number on your facebook account when you signed up, all of your friends are able to view your number. Well, all of your friends AND ANYONE WHO HAS EVER HACKED INTO ANY OF THEIR ACCOUNTS. I believe it's safe to say that covers most of us.
They not only have access to our phone numbers and all of our friend's numbers, but they also have access to who ever has their email address viewable, any other information viewable to "friends only" and for some of us, YEARS of wall posts that facebook will not allow any of us to delete. Well, unless we painstakingly delete one post at a time. Who has time for that?
Hackers and identity thieves love to get into facebook accounts, create fake profiles, and create bogus pages for us to "like" in order to harvest any of our personal information.
Online Cell Phone Directories
Unless you have an unlisted phone number, your landline is public information and is available not only in your local phone book, but also available in online phone directories like anywho.com, zabasearch.com, and Google's own phone directory.
Cell phone numbers are different. It is against the law for cell phone companies to give out your number. But, there are many online companies and sites that are currently compiling cell phone directories by gathering information from across the web. Just google search "cell phone directory" and you'll find pages of them. Some of them even allow people to submit cell phone numbers along with their owners' names and information.
I was shocked when I found that out. Why? Because anyone can make a fake facebook profile, add lots of "friends," and then start collecting phone numbers to submit, along with any other personal information attached to that number. Teens and those in their 20s seem to be much more open to have lots of facebook friends--people they don't even know. They are also much freer with posting their personal information on their profiles, without giving it a second thought--without realizing their information is being compiled and stored.
Even if Your Profile is Private and...
only viewable by your friends, your information may still be available to others. I've already mentioned hackers, what else is there? I decided to test something out the other night when I was up late and couldn't sleep. I realized that just because my account is private, that doesn't mean everything I type on facebook is private.
I decided to do a search of my name as it appears on my profile and to search facebook.com. Any comment I left on pages I "liked" or on friend's walls who do not have private accounts showed up in my google results.
(If you'd like to try it yourself:
- In the Google search bar type in "your facebook name" in quotes.
- Then under the SEARCH button, click "advanced search."
- In the box to the right of "SEARCH WITHIN A SITE OR DOMAIN:" type in "facebook.com").
Why Does it Matter?
You may not care what information is out there about yourself. I do. Am I doing anything illegal? Have I posted anything illegal on facebook? Emphatically, no. BUT, are there criminals on facebook who would love to do God-knows-what with your personal information? You betcha, there are! And law-abiding citizens like you and me need to wise-up and not give them such easy access to our information.
Here are just a few things that can help keep your personal information safe while on facebook (or other social networking sites):
- Make your profile only viewable by friends.
- Only keep friends you actually know. Why give criminals such easy access to your private information?
- Unless you want your cell number out there, take your cell number off your facebook profile--especially if you have lots of friends. If you want someone to call you, send them a private email with your number.
- Keep your email hidden. Preferrably use an email account that isn't attached to your online banking account, your PayPal account, your eBay account, etc.
- Keep your facebook wall cleaned off.
- Slightly change your name--add a letter that doesn't belong or something similar. People who know you will figure out it's really you. Someone looking for personal information about you by Google searching won't find your comments you're placed on someone else's wall. Well, it will at least make it a little more difficult to do so.
- Take off your relatives list--especially if you have under-age children.
- With children under 18, don't use their real last names. Be creative enough to make their name still identifying to people you both know, but not obvious to internet hackers and people harvesting personal information (and dirty old men).
- Don't use your pet's name as your password if you're gonna post your pet's picture and name on your profile!
- For your password, be sure to use capital letters as well as lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Also, break up words you use.
Let's say your password is "mountainvalley" which is a very weak password.
Try adding some capital letters (not in obvious places): "mouNtaiNvalley" I capitalized the Ns.
Add numbers that break up the words you use so that there are no letters grouped together that form words found in a dictionary: "mouN9taiNvall9ey".
Add some form of punctuation: "!mouN9taiNvall9ey".
According to hacker experts, using these simple extras in your passwords will help safeguard any of your online accounts from being hacked.