Military service members the target of identity thieves stealing Facebook profile information

TULSA - Staff Sgt. Erick Wolf was there when crowds toppled Saddam Hussein's statue during the Iraq War.

He even sat on one of Hussein's thrones one of his many palaces.

And now, all these years later, back in Oklahoma, Erick wages another type of war, after his profile and pictures from Facebook were stolen.

"I was infuriated, not just at the exploitation of my personal identity, but the fact they were using that to hurt people, to get money, to break their hearts," Erick said.

Identity thieves concocted a truly heart-breaking story, Erick found out. They used his name and family pictures from Facebook, even those of a foreign exchange student they hosted a couple of years ago.

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The story the thieves put together claimed Erick's wife had passed away while he was serving in Afghanistan and that he desperately needed thousands of dollars to get home to console his daughter back in the states.

Erick learned about the scheme after a woman from Spain found his email address and sent him a message. She detailed how she donated $3,000 for his trip back to the states, only to find out the only person she consoled, was a crook.
 
"It's a weird feeling," Erick said. " It's anger, you just want to get your hands on the guy who's doing this and just smack him."

After hours of research, Erick found more than 60 different examples in which his profile, and variations of this name were used to target other victims.

"They're very clever."

Somebody stole Christopher Carpenter's Facebook profile and pictures, too.

He's in the National Guard.

Christopher found a post in which someone used his ID to try to steal money from well-intentioned people, dollars which were supposedly going to support National Guard troops in Syria who weren't even there.
   
"Degrading my name, since I'm still in, doing anything that would bring discredit on myself, or the uniform, that's what I don't like," said Christopher.

After reporting their cases to the authorities, Erick and Christopher found out the profiles of thousands of service members have been stolen by thieves preying on patriotism.

"We've grown up respecting the military," says Cindy Morrison, a social media strategist.

She says that respect is why schemes exploiting the military work.

"You can see whoever's doing this is pulling on the heart strings, brings in the military side of it, using emotions to milk money out of people," Morrison said.

It's not just military members, anyone who uses social media can have their profiles stolen.

These are some steps Morrison says you can take to discover if your profile and pictures have been stolen, and what to do if they have.

Don't be naive!

DON'T make the following things public on your profiles:

-- Full name (particularly your middle name)

-- Social Security # or Driver's License

-- Home Address

-- Birth City and State

-- Date of Birth (particularly your year)

-- Graduation Dates

-- Pet Names or other things you might use for passwords

This doesn't mean cancel anything and everything, just know there are ways to be smart about what you share and with whom you share it.

For instance, on Facebook, you can make your birthday and month public but not the year of your birth.

So, how do you do that on Facebook, for instance? Click on the wheel-looking icon in the far right corner and scroll down to Privacy Settings.

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Make sure all of your settings are set up for friends only. You'll want to check these settings at least once a month because Facebook is always changing.

 

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If you use a public computer, you need to log off properly from your social media accounts (or any accounts for that matter). If not, the next person who sits there may pretend to be you.

Plus, it's more than logins, privacy and passwords, think before you post.

Don't mention that your family is about to leave town and you worry if your plants will survive w/out you.

While this might not get your identity stolen, it might assure your belongs find a new home.

Along the same lines, disable GPS or location functions on pictures if you're going to be away from home for an extended period of time.

Be Proactive

Google yourself regularly.

This is not just for public figures anymore. Google all spellings of your name and nicknames.

Check out any social media sites that come up. Yes, there may be plenty of other people with your name, but is the picture you too?

Google your name on images.

Do any of those pictures trace back to sites with which you're not connected?

Do the same thing with a search on Facebook.

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Also, it's smart to monitor your credit which you can do once a year for free.

Not only can crooks use your identity to break hearts, steal money and lure children, but they can use what you post to tap you for everything you have.

Be a Dog with a Bone

Many victims of identity theft have spent five to seven years clearing their name.

To make this clear, THEY DID NOTHING WRONG and

yet THEY had to spend years making things right.

In this day and age of social media, nothing has changed.

It may be easier than ever to steal your identity, but it's just as hard as ever to clean up the mess.

Appeal directly to the social network where the offense happened, and don't give up.

Keep after them, even if they say there's nothing they can do.

They're not going to react with lightning speed, but if you can prove who you say you are, they should remove the offender's account.

Laws aren't enacted fast enough to keep up with our changing technology, so unfortunately, the burden is on you to not give up.

Again, you don't have to stop using social media... just be smarter about it.

You can find more information at these sites:

http://www.cindywmorrison.com/?p=2809  

http://CindyWMorrison.com

http://Facebook.com/CindyWMorrison

http://Twitter.com/CindyWMorrison

http://socialvention.com

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