Don’t Get Fooled Again: Fake Identities, False Friends, and Online Safety in the Age of Social Media

by Craig Hartranft on May 13, 2018

in Internet & Social Media Safety, Op-Ed

My Precautions May Seem Strong, But They Keep Me Safe
Personally, I go to extreme lengths to protect my online and social media presence and information. I do not “friend” or “like” 100% of what comes from entities I do not know, and I only “friend” or “like” about 95% of the persons I do know. That my seem harsh, but I do not apologize for not responding to a friend request, page like, tweet, or whatever due to some skepticism. Nor do I apologize for investigating and reporting a suspicious account with an unverifiable identity. 

Nevertheless, when an online entity attempts associate with me, I err on the side of caution and investigate. If, after the investigation, I believe there’s even the slightest inkling that they and their attempts are bogus, I will not associate with them. Additionally, and most often, I will inform the proper social media provider. I will put the ball in their court as it were. They have the better access and resources. (Although, this does not absolve me or you from our responsibility to keep social media safe.) I have had to do this numerous times in the past. As I said earlier, this is thanks to the ubiquitous nature of my music review site and its relationship to my Facebook personal profile, hundreds people contact me on a regular basis to “associate” with me, some on the level, others not so much. I have advised Facebook of many potentially spurious accounts, and many profiles have been removed.

Social Media Dangers Extend Beyond False Identities
Your online social media safety is not limited to the danger from fake and false accounts. As mentioned earlier, you can be the victim of malicious harassment when people friend you or like a page. For example, a few years back, there was this fellow who didn’t like my review of his latest album. He began harassing me by posting derogatory comments on my music review Facebook page, but also through messages. He even threatened me with law suit of slander (it’s actually libel on the Internet, but I don’t think he was wrapped all that tight). I blocked him and then, in an abundance of caution, I reported him and his harassment to Facebook. His profile was removed, and I haven’t been bothered since.

Most of the aforementioned advice and actions can be used to identify and stop these scenarios as well. Perhaps another article need to be fashioned regarding this threat.

Conclusion: Verify, Then Trust; Not Trust, But Verify
Be vigilant. Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust, but verify,” when dealing with the Russians and nuclear disarmament back in the Eighties. In the age of the Internet and social media, this should be reversed to, “Verify, then trust.” With caution, I might add.

Addendum: This article is an expansion of an idea and previous post from 2014, Social Media 101: False Friends, Fake Identities, and Social Media Safety. The post was later archived, because it wasn’t all that impressive in its first draft, but I may revive it in the future.

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