Recently I stumbled upon a Twitter account that had my profile picture, my work history, my website, everything. The impostor’s handle was the same as mine with one letter inverted. I was furious. After requesting that Twitter remove the account, they requested that I prove that I was the authentic Cindy Jones.
Twitter requested a government issued picture ID to verify my identity. Not feeling confident about sending anything after the impostor event, I found an ID, (other than my driver’s license) that had very little personal information on it. (Here’s my carry permit, how’s that for who I am.) For extra security, I blotted out the ID number and my address before sending it.
It took less than 24 hours to have it removed. It was unsettling to see how easy someone could pretend to be me on social media. I’ve watched MTV’s Catfish and wondered how do people pretend to be someone else? But I never once thought it would happen to me.
What’s more disturbing is WHY? Why on earth would someone pretend to be me? Which is material for a later post. Check back.
What do you do to prevent that from happening? I wasn’t sure. There’s protection to secure ourselves from identity fraud but how do you protect yourself from social media fraud?
That was my question as I began my own investigation. First of all, how do you know if you are at risk for social media fraud?
Take a look here to find out: Are You at Risk?
Also take a look at the 5 things not to post on Facebook or other social media.
Here are a few things to look for before you friend someone new.
What can be used to steal your online identity?
- Full name (particularly your middle name)
- Date of birth (often required)
- Home town
- Relationship status
- School locations and graduation dates
- Pet names
- Other affiliations, interests and hobbies
What are some things you can do to protect yourself?
- Never, ever give out your social security number or driver’s license numbers.
- Use an unique user name and passwords for EACH profile.
- Change passwords regularly. (I suggest every quarter on the first of the month)
- Don’t give out your username and password to third parties (even if it helps you connect to others and build your network).
- If you are active in social media, minimize the use of personal information on your profiles that may be used for password verification or phishing attacks.
- Avoid listing the following information publicly: date of birth, hometown, home address, year of high school or college graduation, primary e-mail address.
- Only invite people to your network that you know or have met, as opposed to friends of friends and strangers. (I did a major cleanup after the fraud incident)
- For password security verification questions, us a password for all answers (rather than the answer to the specific question, like “What is your mother’s maiden name?”).
- When age-shifting to protect your real birthday, keep the date close; otherwise, you may expose yourself to age discrimination.
- Watch where you post and what you say, as it can be used against you later.
- Google yourself regularly and monitor your credit using the free annual report or monthly monitoring services.
Googling myself, my name, and my twitter handle was how I found my impostor.
As upsetting as it was, this incident has taught me several things.
- I don’t have to befriend everyone and I’ve become much more selective, even unfriending people that I really don’t know.
- Building an audience needs to mean something more than numbers. I’m no longer interested in creating a large number of “followers” but in making concrete relationships with people I really know.
- I am definitely more careful with what I post, what I view, and what I share.
- Success isn’t worth compromising my peace and making myself vulnerable to predators.
What are my plans from here you might ask. Well, I’ve begun a major cleanup of friendship connections on all my social media platforms. I’m in the process of changing my settings to either private or for friends only. Much of the information in my profiles will be extremely generic.
I don’t want this experience to scare me into becoming a recluse, I have a few friends that are like this, but I want to become more wise in how I present myself.
Social media is a great way to connect with people you would’ve never had the opportunity to otherwise. But like my mom taught me and I taught my kids, I believe the same rule needs to be applied here.
“Don’t talk to (or friend) strangers!”
Have any of you dealt with this problem before and how did you handle it? What are your “stranger-danger rules?”