A Question of Identity

I signed up for my first account on social media around 2007 after a young friend sent me a link with some simple instructions, which would put me amongst the early users of Facebook.  Su recalls that I had maybe just about 300 friends when we first met in 2009, but the number has since grown a few folds. We have friends who are rather cautious with putting things about themselves on Facebook, for fear that such information could be abused. Some friends have indeed used pseudonyms and invented birth dates and of course addresses. I have never thought it necessary to hide my identity primarily because I don’t think too many people would borrow it, but something happened in the past two months, and I am having second thoughts. Let me share such experience with you.

About two months ago when we were in Vancouver, I was unable to reach my regular Facebook account, and when I tried to change the password, I was directed to an old account I had abandoned. I took it as an IT glitch, which might possibly be due to a new sim card Su bought in some IT shop in Yaumatei that would enable me to make calls in North America and Yellowknife in particular. It had happened to me before and I was unable to use the account for a week or so, but then the fault went away unannounced, so that I didn’t take the matter to heart. But this time, the fault persisted and won’t go away for two months. In the end, I sought help from Facebook and explained to some Operations staff that I wanted to regain the account which I had set up for more than ten years. After having given them convincing proofs that I was indeed the owner of the account in question, they led me back to it and asked me to change to a new and strong password, and at the same time asked me to confirm the phone numbers I had used in connection with the account. An unknown number came up, the prefix of which suggested that it was from Nigeria. I had it deleted, but suddenly a bell rang. When I tried to change passwords as a bid to regain the account in the past two months, the prefix and the last two digits of a phone number had turned up.  It suggested strongly that someone, maybe from Nigeria, had taken over my Facebook account and had possibly gained access to information on my Facebook friends and possibly the email addresses associated with the account. This is rather alarming; and could have happened to any Facebook users who do not introduce higher security ratings on their accounts.

I have since regained my account and hence my identity and got re-connected with the friends I lost in the last two months. I have also upgraded the security ratings, and at the same time posted a warning to my friends not to take any notice if they receive message for help purportedly from my account or indeed messages to help me. I would resort to other means if I need help.

One lesson from the experience is that one can never be too careful if one chooses to use the social media for information or for connecting with friends. This is simply a communication tool, and one will need to understand its features, including its strengths and weaknesses and be aware of them.

It is a fine day outside, sunny and breezy, and it is getting warmer. Summer has probably arrived. I wish all my friends good health and I hope you all stay safe.

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