In a recent article I read, a Facebook scammer made off with $57,000 over the last few years by obtaining personal information from his neighbors’ Facebook accounts. The thief, Iain Wood, would gain as much information as possible about each neighbor by friending them on Facebook and then spending over 18 hours a day learning about their personal lives. This would help him to figure out their passwords or the answers to their security questions when logging into their bank accounts. He would then obtain access to their accounts, and even request replacement cards for easier access to his neighbors’ funds.
This reminds me of another arrest made last year in Sacramento where a man used similar tactics to obtain access to women’s Facebook accounts and then used the information about his victims to extort money from them. Both of these shocking and unfortunate stories come down to having a secure password and to avoid using a recovery system with a “Secret Question” that anyone who knows anything about you can guess the answer to.
Earlier this year, Sony had its Online Gaming Center hacked, showing that the top password choices by its users were: “Seinfeld,” “password,” “123456,” “purple,” “Michael,” “peanut” and “abc123.” We tend to think that a “hacker” is some computer genius who cracks complex codes to find out other people’s passwords. But when it comes down to it, we oftentimes make it all too easy for them to figure us out. We can’t be too lazy to create strong passwords or tricky security questions. Rather, we should make our passwords complicated from the start, as well as change them frequently. This is advice that we should use to lead our kids by example, especially when they’re just starting out on social networks or creating another kind of online profile. Even if it’s something as simple as creating a personal Facebook account, the possibility of identity theft is a constant risk both we – and our children – face in the online world today.