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Trust Me. I'm on Facebook

6.1.14

f you’re on Facebook, chances are you’re friends with lots of people you’ve never met.

I know, duh.

But do you know the names of all your friends? I’m not talking about the name they go by on Facebook. I mean their real name.

I don’t mean to shock you, but I’m betting that Bill’s last name isn’t really Luvs2ski. Really, though, that’s no big deal. Everybody knows that it’s a made-up name.

But what about that friend you’ve never met with a common-sounding name?

Over the years, people in general have become much more savvy about their online business. But surprisingly, it’s still not that uncommon to hear about some poor sap who trusted someone he shouldn’t have, and ended up being taken for a financial ride.

The thing is the terminology employed by Facebook tends to breed trust. Facebook users have “friends.” You can trust your friends, right?

When I first got the idea for Profile, I didn’t want the story to get lost amid unrealistic details. I wanted to see how easy it was to actually create and maintain a fake Facebook identity.

The answer, it turned out, is “Pretty damn easy!”

I won’t devote space here to how I did it. Buy the book. The way Arden Chase went about it is pretty much what I did.

While his fake identity in the book is Augustine Smith, mine was Pennington Clark. As “Penn,” I created a persona, complete with backstory, and I began interacting with my new “friends.” His voice was pretty much my own, as was much of his story, which probably helped to make it come across as genuine to most people.

I say “most” people, because there was one person with whom I was chatting who thought something wasn’t quite right. She wanted proof that I was who I said I was. I went along with it for a while because I wanted to establish Penn as a real person, and I didn’t want to raise any more red flags.

This was research!

Well, I unfriended her first chance I got. But what I learned from her about the “Location” feature when using the Facebook app on a cell phone was useful in that it found its way into the story.

Of course that feature also has its weaknesses. There are ways around it. Turns out I was safe from her finding out my true identity. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

But you can bet that there are plenty of scammers out there who do realize and make use of all of Facebook’s weaknesses.

Some create fake Facebook profiles of people you actually do know. That way, when your friend contacts you and says they’ve had some trouble and need cash, you might be more willing to help out.

And since we are certain that everybody must be fascinated by every facet of our lives, we post everything on Facebook. So anybody who follows you knows when you’re on vacation, or even at that favorite restaurant of yours. And depending on how much personal information you put into your profile, or what features you have enabled on your phone, they may know what town you live in, what part of town, possibly even your exact address, complete with a map.

Don’t get me wrong. I love interacting with my friends on Facebook. It’s a great way to connect with people you know, and even to get to know new people. Its features, which change more frequently than some of us like, are powerful, and even helpful if used wisely.

Technology has advanced faster than some of us geezers care to keep up with. You can bet, though, that the scammers have kept up with it. So how do you protect yourself?

Interestingly, the advice hasn’t really changed much since the inception of the e-mail scam, or of the telephone scam: Use your head!

It’s that simple, really. Be careful about how much information you share concerning certain sensitive things. Check your settings to determine who can see what you post. And if someone asks you for money, just say no. Or at least check it out to determine whether or not it’s valid.

Or course, it could be a writer trying to sell you a really great novel. In that case, it’s okay.

Really. You can trust me. I’m on Facebook.