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article imageFacebook fraud, user ID and a nasty situation for FB users Special

By Paul Wallis     Mar 19, 2013 in Internet
Sydney - Facebook recently issued a statement to the effect that a percentage of its accounts were fraudulent, using fake IDs. Digital Journalist Debra Myers had a personal experience which shows how Facebook users can be on the wrong end of the stick.
Ms Myers, who’s been a regular FB user for years, received information that someone had told Facebook that her account was “possibly fraudulent”. That was the beginning of a bizarre saga in which Ms Myers effectively had to prove that she existed and was who she was supposed to be.
In an exchange of emails, Debra told me, verbatim:
I had been logged out of FB (which never happens….and I mean never!) and I had a message on my FB tab, saying I needed to log back in because someone had reported me for having a “fraudulent” or duplicate account. (I wish now I had taken screen shots!)
So, I tried logging back in and had to do the captcha business. Did it once, twice, three times, four times, five times…and each and every time, I got an error message that said I hadn’t typed the right combination of letters/numbers. (I’m sure you’ve seen a similar statement.) Finally, when it popped up a new captcha…I refreshed it, to get another set before I typed in the combination of letters and numbers, and that time it took, But I STILL had to go through the 2-step verification, where it sent a code to my cell which I had to type in on FB. After that…I was logged in.
I have not had any problems with my account since then, and I honestly do not know why or who would have made a complaint against me. That’s what puzzles me. I also went through and did a scan on my computer to check for viruses…I have three different programs…Avast, Sophos Virus Removal and CCleaner. Nothing. No viruses at all.
I don’t get it. I have no idea if it was a glitch…or a hacker/spammer. I never open messages in my FB account that aren’t directly from FB…especially that hit my spam folder. Puzzling….
There is a possibility that FB may have a procedure whereby the user is deemed guilty until proven innocent when an allegation of fraud is made. The civil legalities of this are unknown, mainly because it’s a terms of use issue.
The procedure wasn’t much fun:
I remembered there was one more step I had to go through between doing the captcha business and the 2-step verification...and that was a series of questions, about 8 in all, where I had to identify my friends by their photo or avatar. You were allowed to skip 3 if you weren't sure...I passed, thank goodness!
That’s almost the 100 points of ID, and if it’s standard practice in terms of privacy and security verification, it still doesn’t explain how Ms Myers got in to this situation. Malicious? Stupid? Troll-revenge? Some nasty little object creating trouble?
A big organization like FB should have the resources to check any allegations of this kind. A regular user should also be clearly visible on record, particularly if there are a lot of affiliated accounts associated with the FB account like Twitter, etc. It should be a Yes/No verdict on any allegation of fraud.
This situation has ramifications for literally hundreds of millions of FB users, and it’s also a possibly large cost for Facebook in simply going through this automated mess to establish the credentials of users. In this case a quick look should have verified Debra’s identity and put a black mark against whoever/whatever made the allegation.
I say “whatever” because a spam bot could easily generate standardized posts to Facebook simply using a list of FB accounts. There’s no clear basis for making a quite useless, annoying allegation of this kind.
Yes, there is a problem: has a long list of the uses for fraudulent social media accounts most of which are baited links and phishing scams. A well-known pastor was recently the subject of multiple bogus accounts on FB claiming to be him. There were a lot of fraudulent FB pages for the Newtown shooting.
Facebook itself has been investigating fraudulent accounts for some time, but the issue of whether a mere allegation is any sort of reliable mechanism for positively identifying fraud is more than debatable- It’s ridiculous.
The net result seems to be that those actually committing fraud can simply run away, but bona fide users have to jump through hoops simply to access their accounts on the basis of one allegation?
Debra did a bit of research of her own, and found this very disturbing article about what happens when a Facebook account is disabled. It’s well worth reading, because it explains exactly how much of a mess a disabled account can cause. This guy, Chris Leydon, not only lost the use of his FB account, he also lost the use of all the apps, including apparently phone apps, that went with it.
Losing my phone contacts, calendar appointments and app logins to other services were all inconveniences, but they were things I could fix immediately and find other ways around, minor stuff.
Losing my archive of memories, my messages, my photos, my groups, my Pages, my Events, anything I actually RELY on Facebook for though is infuriating. There’s no way to get this information out of Facebook once your account has been disabled, it’s all ‘gone’.
According to the company’s responses, Facebook’s decision is final. There’s no way I can get back on the service and there’s no way I can get my data back and there’s no way I can know why I’ve become ineligible for an account.
The most ominous thing about this, and likely to be a worry for FB users, is that he didn’t even know why his FB account was disabled. He said that the information he received said he was
….‘ineligible’ to use Facebook and that ‘for safety and security reasons’ I wasn’t allowed to know why.
In case anyone’s wondering what impact this problem might have on Facebook, this sort of information tends to get around. “Social media” tends to get antisocial when the members get ticked off. FB has another problem in that this huge membership is prone to mouthing off, loudly, about things it doesn’t like. As PR, it’s lousy, and as an administrative problem, it’s a genuine risk simply because of simply because of the sheer numbers of people on FB. Extrapolate this guy's experience to thousands of people, and it's not a pretty picture.
It’s far too late to warn the world about Debra, so why is this happening? She’s no terrorist (apart from her sense of humor), so are there security implications?
Think about it, Facebook, because the upshot of this practice could cost you a lot of annoyed users and a decent hit of money in handling costs.
More about Debra A Myers, Facebook account fraud, Facebook disabled accounts, Facebook account connected apps