A recent identity theft survey discovered that nearly 25 percent of Americans add "friends" on Facebook who they don't know, while as many as two-thirds of consumers use the same password for multiple websites. Don't be lured in by a false sense of security on social networking sites. Protect yourself with these tips.
Stay away from sensational or extreme headlines
According to Virgin Digital Help (which offers assistance for computer and technology problems), scammers will often attempt to trick Facebook users by luring them with hard-to-resist content. Question the site if it directs you to sponsored links leading to advertising sites and/or premium phone subscription services.
Offers for free gift cards, free iPads, or other big-ticket items are also likely ploys to get your login and other personal information. "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," says Beth Jones of Sophos Labs, which safeguards data and information for businesses.
Use a secure connection
Virgin Digital Help suggests going to the "Account Security" settings page of your browser, and clicking on the "Secure Browsing" option. Always look for the "lock" icon and an "S" at the end of HTTPS. If you are using Firefox, enable the "NoScript" add-on to ensure you're protecting yourself against click-jacking attacks.
Look at login history
If you think your account might have been compromised, enable notifications each time a new computer or mobile device logs on to your account. End activity if you see any suspicious locations or device types, Virgin Digital Help advises.
Watch what you share
Symantec reminds users to go over privacy settings carefully and be wary of revealing too much on a social networking profile. Don't allow people you barely know to have full access. On top of potentially harming your future job prospects, your personal information can be used by criminals to target you. With geographic location and check-in features, they can even pinpoint your exact location.
Further, if a scammer gathers enough of your personal info, they can effectively impersonate you and gain access to other resources through social engineering. For instance, if they can assemble enough information to answer challenge questions about you on free email services, they can potentially gain access to your email and so on, says Cameron Camp of ESET.
Vary your passwords
When you use multiple, unique passwords, scammers can't access your email or bank accounts if your Facebook gets hacked, Camp says.
Some people repeatedly use simple passwords, like "12345." Camp cautions that aside from being easy to guess this with automatic computer programs, a simple password indicates that its user is probably using it on other accounts.
"Once the scammers get one," he warns, "they may have a lot more access than you bargained for."
Use a minimum of eight characters with some combination of at least one special character, numbers and upper and lower-case letters. Remember to alter your password regularly.