Don’t Fall for This Viral Facebook Privacy Hoax
Facebook is one of the most popular websites in the world. It can be a great place to connect with other people — but it’s also riddled with scams, hoaxes, and fraudulent schemes. One hoax in particular has started making the rounds again recently, and you should be aware of it so you don’t fall victim.
If you want to use Facebook, you need to know what kinds of scams are out there, how to identify a scam, and what you can do to shore up your social media privacy.
The “privacy notice” hoax on Facebook
One of the most well-known hoaxes on Facebook for years is the so-called “privacy notice” post. Users craft a status claiming that by making this post, they are prohibiting Facebook from using their pictures, information, or posts. The status often reads something like:
“I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future…”
Sounds legitimate, right? Well, it’s not.
Your data sharing agreement with Facebook is based on the Terms of Service you signed when you created a Facebook account, not a post you make stating your “rights.”
Posting this on your Facebook profile doesn’t do anything. Facebook’s primary revenue source is advertisement, which uses user data to target ads more effectively. If you could prevent Facebook from using your data for their advertising just with a simple post, Facebook would lose its business model.
Does Facebook have the right to use your information?
Facebook does and does not have the right to use your personal data — it depends on the permission you give to the platform. When you sign up for a Facebook account, you must accept the Terms of Service agreement. It explains how Facebook might share some of your data with third-party companies or use it for Facebook’s own advertising purposes.
While Facebook does have the right to access some of your personal data, they cannot have all of it without your explicit consent. Data that you’ve set to “private” such as private messages or photos, cannot be accessed by Facebook.
If you’re worried about Facebook getting a hold of your data, you should delete your Facebook account — or not create one in the first place. The next best thing is to set your account to private and opt out of as much data sharing as possible on the platform.
Common hoaxes and scams on Facebook
The Facebook privacy hoax isn’t the only one you should be aware of. Scams circulate regularly on the world’s largest social networking site and have been for years. Keep your eye out for these fraudulent schemes as well.
Phishing attacks attempt to steal private information from you, such as a password or credit card number. They’re most common with emails, but they appear on Facebook as well. If you ever get a private message containing a link, always be wary and never click on that link.
Phishing messages can come from people you don’t know, but they can also be made to look like they come from Facebook. They can also come from people you do know, but their accounts have been hacked.
In a romance scam, the trickster builds a fake relationship online with you. When they feel they’ve earned your trust, they’ll ask for money for some “important” reason, like a flight to come see you. This scam often takes place on social media sites like Facebook.
You’ll receive a message from an organization claiming you’ve won a large sum of money — and you can claim it for a small fee. If you haven’t entered any contests lately and you don’t recognize the organization contacting you, ignore the message.
Fake charity scams
You might come across a post saying it will donate money for likes and shares. Or asking for donations because they or a loved one are in need of urgent medical care. Always verify the authenticity of these posts by looking up the charity mentioned or checking the profile of the person who posted.
Some scammers post fake job advertisements on Facebook in an effort to get your personal information or money. A legitimate employer won’t ask for things like your Social Security number just to fill out an application. They probably won’t post their job openings on Facebook either.
Facebook quiz scam
You might be asked to participate in a fun quiz, but the real goal is stealing your information or accessing your Facebook account. In general, just avoid these quizzes because it’s extremely difficult to verify where they came from.
How to spot a scam on Facebook
Knowing which hoaxes on Facebook are popular can help, but there are new scams coming out every day. You should learn how to recognize a scam post when you see one. These seven tips are usually dead giveaways.
- Check Snopes.com: The fact-checking website Snopes.com has investigated and debunked many Facebook scams over the years. If a post looks suspicious, look it up on this website.
- Too good to be true: If the post has an offer or wants you to purchase something, be wary. Anything that sounds too good to be true probably is. Be skeptical of outrageous claims or offers.
- Bogus source: If a post claims to have information from a reputable source, go directly to that source to verify for yourself. It could very well turn out to be bogus.
- Bad grammar or spelling: Many scams and hoaxes have poorly written text, full of grammar or spelling errors.
- Suspicious links: Always hover over a link to see where it leads before clicking. If you don’t recognize the destination or if it seems unrelated, it might be a scam. You can also (very carefully) copy the link and paste it into a link checker such as URLScan to see what’s at the link without actually going to it.
- Disabled comments: If a post is genuinely trying to find information, and not a hoax, the person who posted will most likely leave the comments open. A post that asks you to take some kind of action but has disabled comments is suspicious.
- Copied and pasted caption: How can you tell if a post has been copied from another post? Highlight a chunk of the post text and paste it into the Facebook search bar. If you see any posts with identical or near-identical text, you can be confident it’s a hoax.
- There’s a red siren or pin emoji: Although not always the case, red emojis like the siren 🚨 or the pin 📍 are often used in posts that turn out to be hoaxes.
What you can do to keep your Facebook account secure
One way to avoid Facebook scams and hoaxes is to make your account more secure. Use these tips to protect your Facebook:
- Update your password: Change the password to your Facebook account at least once or twice per year. If your password does end up getting shared or accessed by someone else, you can at least be sure they won’t have it for a long time.
- Use two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication lets you set up a phone number or authenticator app to help you log in.
- Check your app permissions: Periodically go through the apps that have access to your Facebook account. Delete any you don’t use anymore.
- Set your account to private: If your Facebook account is private, it’s a little harder for hackers to find and target you.
Of course, the best way to avoid Facebook scams is by simply not having a Facebook account.
Avoid Facebook hoaxes
It’s possible to use Facebook without risking your personal information getting out. You just have to be careful about the permissions you give Facebook and not fall for any scams on the platform.
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