The controversy over Facebook’s sharing, or rather, oversharing, of information with the social media company Cambridge Analytica Data continues to grow. In an online survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, one in 10 people said they would stop using Facebook by either taking a break or deleting their account. While the majority said they would continue using the site, the loss of any users is devastating to a social media platform. After all, no users means no revenue. With the Federal Trade commission investigating the claims, shares of Facebook have already dropped. This brings to light a larger issue that comes with the ever-changing landscape of technology: How do we safeguard our personal information? Since privacy and confidentiality are the pillars of our business at the Wooding Group we decided to share a few ways we stay safe online.
Determine the source
When you receive an email, a text message or a phone call from an unknown source it is important to determine whether it is legitimate or not. If something seems “off” about it- don’t take any action right away. Key markers for a fraudulent email or text message are spelling errors, strange formatting and links that require you to click and enter information. They also prey on vulnerability. If you get an email from PayPal that your account has been compromised you instinctively want to get it resolved as soon as possible. However, if you notice on closer inspection that someone named lovelylady19@unet sent the email to inform you, it’s fraudulent. I don’t think that “lovely lady” works for PayPal.
Question everything and everyone
Any legitimate person or company should welcome probing questions and should deliver reasonable answers in a calm, timely fashion. If they react with anger or uncertainty when questioned or if they threaten you in any way, they likely are not who they say they are. One of the popular scams this time of year is the Canada Revenue Agency Scam. You receive a call from someone claiming they work for the CRA. They will invent some past discrepancy in your filing and demand payment. They threaten you with jail time, foreclosure even deportation. The only ways to pay are through wires, pre-paid cards/ gift cards or Bitcoin. The fraudsters can be incredibly convincing- they have file numbers, employee numbers and may even have some of your personal information already. This is just one type of scam- there are hundreds of them and new ones pop up every day. It is best to check with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm before you do anything as they are constantly updating their site to try to keep the public informed.
Facebook friend or foe?
While Facebook is a place to make connections sometimes it makes more sense to keep your distance. Scammers will send out “friend requests” to just about anyone in hopes that you accept them and allow them access to your information. It is incredibly easy to save someone’s photos, take down their birthdate and create fake profiles that look very real. One way to keep yourself safe is to only accept requests from people you actually know. You can also change your privacy settings so that you won’t show up in search engines which gives you more control as to who finds you in the first place. Another way to limit your exposure is to decline any app requests for your personal information. Many popular game, photo sharing and music applications use Facebook as a way to gather information about your preferences and friend lists. In order to disable this simply choose Settings> Account Settings> Apps and turn the Platform to “Off.” This will revoke any authorization for apps you use from interacting with your Facebook. You can even remove the apps altogether. All social media platforms deal with the same issues. LinkedIn, Twitter & Instagram all have problems with identity theft and scammers.
If you stay vigilant with your online activity you can enjoy all that the internet has to offer. Information can be a valuable resource for marketing companies and make-shift criminals alike, and so it’s important to protect it in any way you can. If you do find yourself in a situation where your personal information has been compromised you can report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and they can direct you to resources to help remedy the situation. The sooner you report it, the sooner they can help not only you, but others who may be susceptible to the same scam.