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Social Networking: How Can I Protect Myself?

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 1 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
Identity Theft Online Facebook Chat

Q.My details have been found on dating websites with a picture of myself. I have not put this information on and I am concerned that somehow someone has got my details. The only place I have some information is Facebook. Please could you help as this is very distressing.

(Miss Shell Davies, 29 December 2008)


The Internet is a great place to socialise, but you have to take onboard a certain level of risk every time you use any websites on the Internet. From shopping to chat rooms, there is an inherent risk that your personal details could be stolen. Identity theft is one of the most concerning forms of crime today. With millions of people including sometimes highly detailed information about themselves on their Facebook pages, this information is a goldmine for cybercriminals.

It is very easy to take some basic information from your Facebook page and use this as a jumping off point to gain even more detailed information about other areas of your life. With nothing more than a name and date of birth, anyone can obtain a copy of your birth certificate for instance.

In your case, it appears that someone has simply copied the personal details you keep on your Facebook page over to the dating website. This could have been a practical joke by a friend of colleague that has access to your Facebook pages, so ask everyone that has access to these pages. Make them aware of the dangers surrounding identity online theft.

Perhaps you need to set some of your friends’ access to your Facebook pages to ‘limited friends’ that gives them access to only a cut-down version of your profile. Have a look at all of the settings you have on your Facebook pages now and tighten up the security you have by limiting access. And Facebook has its own security page that you should read in detail.

You are not powerless when this sort of identity theft occurs. Contact the dating website and request that your details are removed. Next you need to look very closely at what information you have on your Facebook pages and indeed any other website and ask yourself how much of this information is available in the public domain.

Social websites usually allow members to block their pages so they are only available to view by your trusted friends. But again, have you protected these pages with a strong password? Cybercriminals will try and break into your protected pages to gain the personal information they need to clone your identity.

Security online is really about your own vigilance. Think about how much personal information you have included on not just Facebook but all the other websites you use regularly. Who can view this information? Have you protected these pieces of information with a strong password or other security device?

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I have a similar situation - people using my pictures but not my details. I'm not having much luck contacting the site concerned but can anyone tell me whether an offence is actually being committed?
Mike - 16-Mar-11 @ 4:38 PM
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