My privacy has been invaded twice in the past month – my digital privacy, that is.  I have always been one to promote all things online and digital.  I guess you can call me a traditional early adopter – if there is a new App, new system or new technology, I would be happy to give it a go.  But now I am wondering whether this attitude has left me susceptible and exposed.

The bank incident

About a month ago I stopped at an ATM to draw some money.  I normally make an effort to print a receipt just to keep an eye on the bank balance.  Generally I just glance at it, and throw it away.  This time I looked at it and thought:  “There is more money in our account than I expected”.  We were doing some construction work and larger than usual amounts of money was passing through our bank account, so sometimes there was a timing difference, briefly inflating our bank account for a few days. But then I looked again and realised that, in fact our account was not in credit.  It was in debit.  We were overdrawn – very overdrawn!

By this time I was starting to panic.  I wanted to get home to check my account online.  I felt ill!  I got home and logged in.  In short, someone stole £6,000 from our bank account.  

I don’t know whether the bank and police found the culprit, but it made us feel extremely vulnerable.

The Facebook incident

Last week I fell foul to Facebook fraud.  In short, someone hacked into my Facebook account, changed some settings, made me an administrator for a page purporting to be the Elle Magazine Facebook Page, and set up a pay-per-click advertising campaign to promote their page.

Thank goodness I was at my computer when it happened.  Facebook sent me an email to confirm the advertising account and first campaign.  At first I thought it was a spam email, but logged into my Facebook account as a precaution.

Luckily I was able to change my password, delete the advertising campaigns and report it before any costs were incurred.  Not that Facebook actually did anything about it. Their page is still up.  I guess they don’t care that it was fraud, and that the creator of their page uses other people’s money to promote the site.

But looking back I realised that if I had been a general, social user of Facebook, I wouldn’t have known how pay-per-click advertising campaigns work.  I probably would not have realised that I was at risk of being charged $50 per day per campaign until I received a bill.  Assuming the billing kicked in a month later, I would have been charged approx $4,500 for the 3 campaigns that were set up!

Advice to stay safe

You have heard it all before, but it is important to:
  • Change passwords frequently.  I know it is hard to remember so many, but devise a way to memorise them
  • Be vigilant.  Don’t click on any links from emails.  Log into accounts manually if you’re sent an email to inform you of activity you don’t recognise
  • Use safe networks.  Don’t log into secure websites, e.g. banking from public networks
  • Trust your instincts
  • Help protect vulnerable family members – those who are casual or infrequent users of the internet won’t read the warning signals in the same way savvy internet users would.
Have these 2 events, in very close succession changed my attitude to the digital world?  No, just like in the real world there are areas that are more dangerous that others.  On balance, the online world still tips in favour of the positives for me.
How about you?  Have you had any worrying incidents?