On Facebook, you're either a consumer or a product

Monday, January 25, 2016

Nobody wants to see all their friends' dirty laundry on social media, but there are better reasons to limit what you share with the world.

Ask Sarah Palin, who had her Facebook account hacked in 2008 after she reset her password using information available on ... Facebook.

Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, organize activities, share milestones and concerns.

But Mark Zuckerberg didn't amass a net worth of $43.3 billion by giving things away -- and no, he's not giving any of it to people who share Facebook postings.

The same goes for recent Powerball lottery winners.

As computer security expert Bill Dean pointed out, on the Internet, you're either a consumer or a product.

You're a target for people who want to sell you something, or you're a name to be sold to someone with something to sell.

Most of the time, it's a fair exchange; as long as we realize how our information is being used, it's reasonable to trade it for a little entertainment or some other service.

But that's not true in the case of deceptive or criminal enterprises.

Someone with illegal intent can gather up bits and pieces of your identity here and there and finally have enough information to do you harm.

Take your date of birth, for instance; it may be something you have to supply to reset your password for banking or other sites.

The same goes for "challenge questions" like your mother's maiden name, your first car or pet, or your city of birth.

Those quizzes? "What's your hippie name?"

Other common scams:

* Profile viewers and blockers don't work. Facebook doesn't allow developers to use the data it would take to show you who has been looking at your profile or who has blocked you from theirs.

* Free tablets and phones are just marketing gimmicks.

* Free Facebook Credits target gamers, and promise something for nothing.

* Free products, gift cards and tickets. There's no free lunch just for taking a survey.

* Breaking news stories are often just a technique for getting you to click on a link. The same goes for shocking and sexy headlines or fake stories about celebrities' deaths.

* "Help I'm Stranded and Need Money" is an old email scam updated to use Facebook messaging. Don't fall for it.

Some other good ideas:

* Never disclose anything about bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards or other information on Facebook.

* Don't add or accept friend requests from people you don't know.

* Take extra care with your passwords. Don't use something others can guess, use a mixture of letters, number and symbols, and change your password frequently.

* Don't use the same password on Facebook and other websites.

* Make sure you have good security software installed on your computer, smartphone and tablet to protect them against worms, Trojan viruses and other threats.

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