Have you ever gotten a Facebook friend request from someone you don’t remember meeting? Did you accept it? The large majority of people will accept friend requests even if they are not sure they know a person, assuming that they must have met them through a mutual friend, etc. That opens the door to a growing trend in identity theft called farcing. Farcing is when a stranger sends a friend request, gets into a social media circle, them slowly expands on that circle while gleaning personal information from each account; the end game being fraud or identity theft.
The University of Buffalo did a study on farcing trying to prove exactly how easy it is to worm into a social media group. University of Buffalo associate professor of communications Arun Vishwanath posted multiple fake Facebook profiles then began sending out friend requests. 1 in 5 users accepted those requests. Given the amount of personal information that people post to social media or add with a status update, Vishwanath could have taken over dozens of identities with little or no difficulty.
Teens are most vulnerable
As adults we know that teens are less prone to protect themselves, the general feeling of invincibility that comes with youth extends to social media. Teens are especially apt to post where they live, work, their phone number, and who they hang out with. All of this information can be easily used to steal an identity and extend a farcing scam.
A recent study by the Pew Research Internet Project was able to show that 7 out of 10 teens frequently share the name of their school, while 53 percent posted their email address on social media outlets. As if that isn’t bad enough, 82 percent of the teens surveyed admitted to posting their date of birth. With those key pieces of information just sitting on Facebook waiting to be stolen, it is a miracle that every teen hasn’t had their identity used by a cyber criminal.
What can you do
The first step that everyone should take is to limit the number of friends that they have on Facebook. Make sure that you personally know each person before accepting a friend request. Second, never post your address, email address, phone number, birthday, or your social security number. You may say DUH! to some of the things listed, but you shouldn’t. I spent 20 minutes on Facebook and found that each one of those items had been posted by my friends.
Additionally, everyone over the age of 16 should pull their free credit report (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action) once a year. Between the ages of 16 and 18, a person should not have a credit report because they are too young to enter into a legal contract. If your teen does, their identity most likely has been stolen.
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