Facebook is rapidly evolving from merely a personal hobby to a business necessity.
If your role in your company involves building relationships and networking with your clients, prospects and vendors, there are few more effective tools than Facebook. Perhaps as important, if you’re not actively engaged in Social Media you’re surrendering to your competitors a critical edge.
With an estimated 600 million users actively involved with this Social Media phenomenon, it’s no wonder major corporations are throwing big dollars into developing new Facebook strategies.
But the rapid popularity of Social Media tools like Facebook has also ushered in the usual suspects: criminals, con artists and malcontents.
In fact, Facebook is the ultimate tool for identity theft. Where better to get inside information about your potential targets than in the place where people freely share personal details online?
One unfortunate woman got nabbed for $25,000 when she fell prey to the petitions of a phony member of the military—a popular scheme. Another poor bloke got sucker punched for $200,000 in the name of love.
Other scams include signing up for Phishing links and programs. These are malware programs which con you into giving personal information like banking and social security details. Make a mistake here and you’ll have a real nightmare on your hands.
So how do you network on Facebook without getting scammed? Here are a few helpful guidelines:
Be Friendly…But Cautious
If you’re using Facebook as a business networking tool, you’re probably not going to want to use all of the security features allowed to you. Restricting your posts to only your closest friends will limit you from getting your message out beyond your inner circle. It will keep your messages from “going viral” and getting out to large groups of people...many of whom could be potential clients.
But allowing your posts to be visible to the public is entirely different than “Friending” everyone that puts in a request. When you accept a Friend request, it opens you up to a whole new level of intimacy, wanted or not. Depending on your settings, they will be able to chat with you, post on your Wall and misuse your “Friending” of them to lure some of your legitimate friends. The pornography empire has gotten into the Facebook game and if you accept some young college student as a friend, you may soon be getting unwanted advances and embarrassing pictures posted to your page.
Before you hit that “Accept” button, make sure you do your due diligence and know who it is you are saying "Yes" to. Don’t get carried away with this, because this is networking after all, but err on the side of prudence.
A Picture Tells A Thousand Lies
Remember that your Friends are susceptible to getting their account hacked, which is somewhat akin to alien abduction. It may look like them, and it may even sound like them, but it’s an imposter who has ill intentions. The bottom line is that you can’t trust anything at face value that comes across on Facebook.
If one of your Facebook friends makes odd requests or just doesn’t seem like their normal selves, there is a good chance they’re not. A common ploy is to use the personal information freely shared on your friend’s Facebook account to make you think it’s them. To lower your suspicions they'll drop the names of your friend's children and grandchildren and may share other personal information—all of which they’ve stripped from the page. Always be on the lookout for imposters.
The “you’ve got to check this out” is one of the most popular comments you'll hear on Facebook, and is also one of the most lethal. By merely hitting a “Click Here” you may be opening your computer and your entire network up to malware or identity theft. This can be difficult to avoid as on Facebook you’re constantly being barraged with requests to view irresistible video clips and fun family pictures.
A trick that you can always use is to slide your mouse over the hyperlink before you click it. All browsers will have a location on the screen where it will show the address you’re about to be sent. If it has an address with a bunch of numbers or a website that looks strange, it could very well be a harmful link.
You’ll also need to avoid the “like” temptation. You'll receive posts from friends that may say something like, "Sally Joe likes 'kids with cute little smiles.'" You want to support Sally and all of those adorable little ones, but avoid the temptation to push the like button. Many of these are harmless, but some of them aren’t and are commonly used tools for Facebook flim-fam artists.
The same goes for all of those wonderfully exciting Facebook apps. When you sign up for those, you're embracing someone's code. You want to make sure it's a reliable program, and not malware, before heading down that path.
When it comes to links, live by this rule: If you are not sure, don’t go there.
Now That We’re All Terrified
So should we cancel our Facebook accounts and crawl into an Internet hermitage? No. Not at all. In many ways, our Facebook profile is becoming as important as our e-mail account. But, just as you do when you drive on the freeway, be careful and watch out for the idiots.