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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Slaying the Dragon (aka Facebook)

Many years ago, before it was at its peak in popularity, I created a Facebook page. This was mostly so that I could keep up with what my daughter and sister were doing, share pictures, etc. Like I said, this was before it turned into the monster that overtakes and complicates lives, which (in my opinion) it is now.

Before I moved to Greenville, SC in 2011, I deactivated my account. By then, I was growing weary of it anyway and just didn't want to be distracted by it anymore. But once we were settled in our new place and there were pictures to share, I reluctantly created a new page. This was my first mistake.

At the time I deactivated the old account, I didn't know there was the choice to either deactivate or delete a Facebook profile. I just assumed that it would disappear after deactivating. WRONG. It stays out there forever, giving you the chance to reactivate it years later if you so choose, and also giving hackers the modus operandi they need to steal your info. I now know I should have just reactivated this account rather than creating a new one after we moved.

So last fall, in an attempt to simplify my life, I deleted my Facebook account. It was an unnecessary distraction in my life and I was and am glad that it's gone.

But then, a few months ago my sister texted me, asking if I had reactivated my account. When I said no, she said someone must have "hacked" an old account, because ads for products such as electronics and sunglasses were being sent with my name and an old picture. What? How?

That's when I knew the original account had never just disappeared and it was back to haunt me.

So the first thing I needed to do was get the old account deleted. I didn't have the password, and the email attached to the account was closed so I couldn't receive the email from Facebook in order to change the password. I even went as far as contacting the company that provided the old email account, requesting the account be reopened temporarily so that I could get access, but they said it was gone and there was nothing to access.

Wouldn't you think that with all the technology that Facebook must possess, that their system could figure out when an email is being sent to a closed email account?

After many tries to guess the password (the hacker must have changed it), many attempts to contact Facebook online (they make it very difficult if not impossible to do so), and messages on Twitter, I resorted to sending a certified letter "snail mail" and requested a signature upon delivery. Yes folks, I was willing to take this to the nth degree, if necessary.

But lo and behold, about a week after the letter was received by them, I received an email from Facebook Community Operations. They wanted me to reiterate the problem (assuming because they wanted to ensure it was me who sent the letter) and then in a second message asked for a picture of a government issued document, such as my driver's license. Once this was done and verified, they said they would delete the account.

What they did was change my email address on the account and the password, which allowed me to go in and deactivate, then delete the account. Strangely enough, Facebook makes it very difficult for you to delete your profile. I had to Google it to find out how to do it.

And it worked. I'm so relieved.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it was to me. The thought of someone using my name, and all the info and pictures associated with the page, just really bothered me. There were tons of people I didn't know on my friends' list, and all kinds of junk had been sent out in my name. I did get a lot of pleasure thinking about the hacker trying to log in to the account and finding out that it was gone!

Maybe it just comes with getting older, but I'm going to be so much more careful going forward where and with whom I share my personal info.

So, let this be a lesson. In this day and time, there are so many smart people out there using their time to do bad instead of good and it's too easy to have your identity stolen. Close and delete any unused open accounts be it credit or otherwise, and don't use your debit card online (another lesson learned previously). And if you have a Facebook page, add a second source of access to retrieve your password, such as by text on your cell phone.