Having your social accounts hacked can have a variety of consequences.
Social media identity theft isn’t usually directly related to your finances, but it’s no less devastating. And it can have some indirect financial consequences. The challenge is that this a relatively new type of identity theft, so many states don’t even have laws in place to protect you. So, it’s in your best interest to take every step you can to protect yourself to avoid social media ID theft entirely.
What is social media identity theft?
Social media ID theft is when anyone accesses your social media accounts without your knowledge or permission. They can post obscene and profane things in your name and impersonate you in front of your friends, family and followers.
If you have private pictures or videos that are only shared with certain people, they can be made completely public. In fact, even if you haven’t shared the photos or video, if the social account is linked to your library in the cloud, then can access your private content and share it.
This can all be extremely embarrassing, humiliating and cause emotional and mental distress. And it can have other consequences, too. You can lose your job if what the cyberthief posts is socially unacceptable. In addition, any information that you have saved on the back end of your account would be accessible to the person that has access. If you have accounts linked to that social account, then the person will have access to those accounts, too.
Safeguarding your information on social networks
In addition to the potential for thieves to impersonate you, there are other ways social networks can provide them with your personal information. Follow these tips to minimize your risk:
- Avoid posting photos of financial information or mail.
- Learn and understand your privacy settings at the account level and with each individual post you make to avoid oversharing. Understand the privacy impact of accepting a friend or follow request.
- Be skeptical of links to unfamiliar websites, especially ones that promise shocking video, photos or gossip. They may be designed to hijack control of your account and information, and trick your friends into doing the same.
- If you log into social media on a computer other than your own, remember to log off before leaving and to avoid checking the box to remember your username or password.
How to report identity theft on Facebook
Here are the current steps to report impersonation on Facebook:
- Go to the Timeline of the impersonator
- Click the “…” button in the upper right and then select Report
- Click Report this account
- Click This person is pretending to be me or someone I know and then complete the on-screen directions
- Click Submit to Facebook for Review
If you don’t have a Facebook account but know someone is impersonating you, use this form to report it.
Because Facebook routinely changes its layout and the placement of buttons, you should always look for the latest instructions on the website itself. Go to http://www.facebook.com/help and click on Report an Issue for guidance.
How to report identity theft on Twitter
Twitter policy allows for “parody, commentary, or fan accounts,” but will remove accounts it agrees portray another person in a “confusing or deceptive manner.” To report an account:
- Go to the impersonation form. You don’t need to be logged in
- Select I am being impersonated
- Select A user is pretending to be me or someone I know
- Specify whether you are the user or an authorized representative of the victim (You will be turned away if you select the friend/fan option)
- Provide information including your name, email, username, and a description of the problem including the offending account
- Click Submit
How to report identity theft on LinkedIn
LinkedIn does not have a specialized channel for reporting impersonation accounts. To report an account:
- LinkedIn asks that you first make sure the account is not a duplicate you accidentally created with an alternate email address, since this is a common problem. Use this FAQ to check and, if so, get help merging your contacts into one profile.
- If you are sure the account was not created by you, log in and click Get Help under Account & Settings in the upper right (The icon is your profile picture)
- Click on Help Forum in the navigation menu up top.
- Click on Contact Us in the navigation menu. (You have to pretend to look for help before the site will let you click there.)
- Fill out the form, using the issue type Privacy/Abuse and a subject line such as “Report Fake Profile.” Describe the situation and provide a link to the offending profile, then click Continue.
- A box will pop up to steer you back toward possible answers. Confirm your message by clicking Submit.
Reporting social media identity theft to the FTC
While there aren’t any specific federal laws related to social media identity theft, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the same way you would report other types of identity theft.