Every month or two, I get a request to become Facebook friends with John, a retired banker who I’ve known for more than 20 years. John and I have been Facebook friends for about three years, so why is he sending me new requests?
The answer is he’s not. The requests are coming from someone who has taken over John’s account. Access to a real Facebook account can be a valuable tool for a hacker trying to create a false identity in the online world.
Over the past few years, Facebook has taken several steps to make its user accounts more secure and easier to customize. But it’s up to individual users to fine-tune their own privacy and security settings. These five tips will help make your Facebook experience safer and more secure.
Change your password. That’s a good practice for all your online accounts, especially if you use the same password with multiple services. To update yours, click on the triangle in the upper right corner of your Facebook page and select Settings from the drop-down menu.
On the General Account Settings page that appears, you can enter and confirm a new password. Make it something that’s easy to remember but not easy for others to guess. You can share your password with a close friend or relative so they can get into your account in an emergency.
Get login notifications. Most people use Facebook only from their computer, tablet or mobile phone and Facebook can tell you if someone logs in using a different device.
From the Settings page, click the Security icon in the left column, then click Edit for Login Alerts. You can choose to be alerted through Facebook or by email or both.
For an additional layer of security, select and edit Login Approvals. There you can tell Facebook to send a code to your mobile phone when someone logs in from an unknown browser. If that’s you logging in from a public computer or at a friend’s house, entering the code will prove it.
Limit friend requests. While a Facebook page run by a business or organization may welcome any and all friends, many individuals prefer to get requests only from people they know.
To restrict who can contact you through Facebook, click Privacy Settings and edit who can contact you. Clicking Friends of Friends will limit requests to only people who are already linked to your current circle of friends.
Control your public profile. People looking for you can find your Facebook page using your email address, your phone number or by entering your name in a search engine. This can be helpful if you don’t mind hearing from a distant cousin who is researching your family history.
But if you would prefer a lower profile in the digital world, you can restrict who can look you up to just Facebook friends or friends of friends. The Privacy Settings also let you decide who can see what you post on your page.
Facebook makes it easy to adjust many of these settings with its Privacy Checkup and shortcuts. To get to them, click the padlock icon in the upper right corner of any Facebook page.
If you suspect that your account or a friend’s account has been hacked, the Facebook Help Center on the web has information on how to report that and other issues.