How to get hacked on Facebook

A new study shows how social network users are leaving themselves vulnerable. Here's how to protect yourself online.

By Stacy Johnson Apr 13, 2011 10:35AM

This post comes from Karla Bowsher at partner site Money Talks News.


I recently had to track down the past decade's worth of my alma mater's student body presidents for an article I was writing at another publication. Some were still local, while others had moved on. But 90% of them had one thing in common: They participated in social networks, so they were easy to find.


Once you share your birthday on Facebook or brag about your employer on LinkedIn, I can use public records to track down everything from your home address to your home value. But instead of a journalist tracking you down for an interview, a thief could hijack your personal details to steal your identity. Post continues after video.

"Friending someone online is not risk-free," says Thomas Oscherwitz, chief privacy officer for ID Analytics. "Just as in the bricks-and-mortar world, it makes sense to exercise a bit of prudence. Most social networking profiles contain personal information that can be used by fraudsters, and when you friend someone, you are giving them access to this information."

A recent study from ID Analytics, a company that analyzes identity risk, shows that we're leaving ourselves vulnerable to such fraudsters via lax social networking habits:

  • Nearly 13 million 18-year-olds (and older) using social networking sites will accept any connection request from a member of the opposite sex -- even if they don't know that person.
  • Men are more than twice as likely as women to accept any and all invites from someone of the opposite sex (18% compared to 7% for women).
  • Five percent of U.S. adults will accept any friend request they receive -- regardless of who sends them.

How are social media butterflies supposed to protect themselves from e-thieves? It may seem obvious, but apparently it's not:

  • There's no prize for the Facebook profile with the most friends, so take a second to think about whether your next friend request is worth granting before you click. Friending a complete stranger, like picking up a hitchhiker, has risks.
  • While you're spring cleaning your home, don't forget to dust off your cyber space. Scrutinize every detail you share on Facebook and then purge your profile of unnecessary personal data. Do you really need to list your email and phone number for every last "friend" to see? If they need to reach you, they can always send you a private Facebook message. And what about your birthday? Getting your Facebook wall spammed with impersonal birthday notes one day of the year isn't worth risking identity theft -- which often starts with a birth date.
  • When you're done with your profile, scrutinize your privacy settings. Facebook's settings are notoriously intimidating -- as The New York Times illustrated last year -- but step-by-step guides are available online. For example, The Huffington Post has a slideshow about the five most important settings, and the nonprofit Common Sense Media offers a video for parents whose children frequent social networks.

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:


May 4, 2011 1:16PM
we provide training on how to use FB and other sites safely - the biggest problem we run into is that people are TOO LAZY to change their security settings. very sad!
May 3, 2011 9:05AM
 I have to say I know a girl on myspace ( what a mistake knowing her) she adds anybody who sends her a friend request.  I know for a fact that she puts out her information out online all the time, I told her time and time again not to put her information online, but doesn't listen.


ok, let me get this straight....some of us sign up for facebook, plug in all sorts of personal information and practically our entire lives complete with minute by minute details....


then we're surprised that a) we have little privacy and b) we've increased the chances of ID theft?  wow--who could have ever imagined this would be possible???


duh...wake up idiots.

May 4, 2011 3:30PM

My guess is that most adults, we'll say 30 + are pretty smart about their Facebook activities.  I'd worry more about the young people who might have personal competitions of who has the most friends, if who has the cutest friends of the opposite sex...  Also, with the younger generation, I've learned they don't always have a filter to know what is inappropriate to post. 



May 4, 2011 4:17PM
These comments are about as worthless and pathetic as this article was.
May 4, 2011 3:02PM

You have to be kidding me. People are stupid enough to not know this? But people keep on putting it out there. I have no sympathy for people who get hacked or robbed for info they gave up on Face Book. I mean after all they were  the ones who were dumb enough to use it.

May 4, 2011 2:22PM
you can come to my house if you want too your not gonna like what you see trust !!!
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