Whether you prefer Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, it’s fun to engage with new friends, reconnect with old friends and keep in touch on social media. In less effort than it takes to send a single email with a photo attachment to one person, we can upload that same photo to Facebook in seconds for all our friends to see and share their comments and compliments. It’s powerful technology used by nearly 3 billion people around the world.
When you have that many people posting, commenting, and messaging each other in one place, companies with products and services to sell are sure to follow. For these companies, “engagement” is everything. Engagement is what happens when you like, share or make a comment on a company’s social media post. Because most people have more than a hundred friends/followers and like dozens of companies/brands, social media platforms use technology to send to your newsfeed only the posts with a lot of engagement.
That’s why companies will do just about anything to make sure their fans and followers engage with their posts. One of the most popular ways to do that is to ask a fun, nostalgic question. Questions like:
Do you remember the name of your first grade teacher?
What was your first car?
What street did you grow up on?
What was your first pet’s name?
These questions seem harmless, and for the vast majority of social media users, they are. Unfortunately, millions of criminals lurk Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, looking for personal information they can use against you. Every time you answer a question on Facebook that asks for personal information, you put yourself at risk for identity theft or sophisticated scams.
Do you regularly update the passwords for your online banking and credit card accounts with nonsensical combinations of numbers, letters, and symbols? If not, that makes you like millions of other people who choose easy-to-remember passwords and stick with them for years. How many times have you used your wedding anniversary, child’s name, birthdate, or pet’s name as a password? Probably more times than you’d like to admit. Identity thieves know this. When you answer a question on social media, you give them the hints they need to log in to your accounts and steal your money and identity.
It’s bad enough that these thieves can get into your account. Once they have access, they often change the password so you can’t access your own money or line of credit. We hope you never experience the sick feeling of a preventable financial loss, so please stop sharing personal information on social media and CHANGE THOSE PASSWORDS.
The more personal information you share on social media, the easier you make it for a potential thief to scam you on a platform where your defenses are already down. How many times has something someone shared made you laugh out loud, made you clench your fists with anger, or made you tear up? Social media tugs at our emotions in powerful ways, and in just a few short clicks, scammers can find some creative ways to manipulate you.
Imagine a message with a subject line like “Our friend Stacey Smith needs your help” pops into the email account associated with your Facebook account (because you set your privacy settings to “public”). You don’t know the person who sent the email, but you open it anyway because you love Stacey.
Hi (your name here),
I’m sorry we’re meeting like this, but Stacey has mentioned you several times at our PTA meetings and all the fun you two had at Red Oak Elementary School when you were kids, so I had to reach out to you with some sad news. Stacey has a rare infection that will require a $100,000 surgical procedure that’s not covered by insurance. I know you no longer live here in Scamsville and that it’s been years since you’ve seen Stacey, but she still loves Tom Petty. In fact, “I Won’t Back Down” is her motto for beating this awful disease. Stacey is super private about this situation (it’s why she’s not posting about it on Facebook) and would probably kill me for doing this, but I’m asking anyone who knows her to help me offset her medical bills. Please send me a check to the PO box below or Venmo me anything you can to help our friend.
Tempting, isn’t it? Now imagine, if Stacey herself asked you for money for the same surgery, only the person asking the question is a thief who logged into her Facebook account and is messaging you directly through the social media platform.
It happens all the time, and millions of trusting people lose billions of dollars every year.
Answering random questions on social media puts a target on your back by providing thieves with the personal information they need to break into your online accounts or scam you into giving them money. Be smart, be selective, and leave the personal information to in-person conversations that are even more satisfying than commenting, liking, and sharing on social media.
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