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Granted, social media might not be the first thing that you think about when it comes to protecting your information in the event of your death. But in fact, social media fraud after death is very real. And in recent times, there have been an increasing number of scams by those taking advantage of legacy social media accounts. This could see people impersonating you, or even trying to steal your identity. Obviously, this is something that it is essential to try and avoid.
So, how can you secure your online world so that your loved ones don’t have to deal with the emotional and practical implications of social media fraud when you die? Here, we’ll consider the issue, and how to protect yourself from it.
Unfortunately, the accounts of people who have passed away are particularly vulnerable to social media fraud. This article talks about how a woman found herself being harassed online by someone using her dead friend’s Facebook account, but was reluctant to block the account as it was her final link to the deceased.
“Ghost fraud” is a term that’s emerged in recent years, which refers to the process of stealing someone’s identity after they’ve died. Interestingly, 7% of Britons want their social media accounts left live when they die – but this could open their families up to huge fraud scams that are difficult to disentangle from.
Indeed, this 2019 article reports on people increasingly finding strange requests, including for financial help, as well as suspicious links, being posted from the Facebook accounts of people they know to be deceased.
Whilst the big players in social media might be quick to deal with fraudsters once they’re identified, this won’t always be the case. In fact, Skype and TikTok currently don’t have policies in place to deal with the accounts of deceased people at all. Whether they will look to fix this is entirely up to them, and is no way guaranteed.
There are a number of things that you can do to protect yourself against social media fraud whilst you’re still alive. Three ways to secure your accounts include:
This article points out how easy it is for the family of a deceased person to be tricked into trusting scammers whilst they’re grieving – so much so, that the FBI has warned about the dangers. Sometimes, scammers get in contact and already be armed with personal information. A lot of this information they have found on social media. Often, they have a plan to get grieving people to trust them. To avoid this, be careful about the personal information that you share online in the first place. Also make sure only people you really trust can see your profile. That means making your accounts private, and only connecting with people you know well.
Phishing scams are used to try and ascertain personal information. This Telegraph article points out that two thirds of the Facebook accounts of deceased people are at risk. This makes sense. Family members, when checking the inboxes of the deceased, are unlikely to know all of the acquaintances that might try to get in touch. This makes them particularly vulnerable to accepting hackers posing as genuine friend requests, or passing on information that they might assume comes from a legitimate request. Make sure they are aware of these risks.
You may feel that, in the case of your death, you want your social media accounts to be closed down completely. There are of course other options, such as turning a Facebook profile into a memorial page instead of closing it completely. Your loved ones can make a request to do this directly with Facebook. Usually, the request will be granted in a few weeks. This means all your photographs and other media can remain on the page and isn’t at risk of being lost. It also protects hackers from tricking people into thinking that the account is still active. Your loved one may have to provide a scan of your death certificate in order to do this.
You might want the page closed in the event of your death. In this case, you should give your password to a trusted person. This means they can close your accounts once you’re no longer around. They can then delete the account via the settings page when they’re logged in. If you don’t do this, and they have no way to reset your password, they might have trouble being able to delete your account. They will be able to make a request to the social media company itself. This might take a while, though. There is also no guarantee that their wish will be granted.
If you’re making your final plans, it might be a good idea to set out the things that you’d like saving from your social media accounts before your loved ones delete or close them. This is most likely to include photographs. Consider if you want to save them on your computer in an easy-to-find file.
Whilst photographs might be the main keepsake for your family, there might be other (less obvious) information that you want to extract from a page before it disappears for good. What about contact details for relatives or friends that you’d like your children or grandchildren to stay in contact with? Closing your account could mean they cut off the only means of communication that they have with them. Make sure you set everything out so that opportunities like this aren’t lost when your accounts aren’t shut down.
Do you have any good advice for stopping social media fraud in its tracks? Let us know over on the forums – we’d love to hear.
Need more tips to avoid scammers and fraudsters? Read these next!