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Welcome to the ProtectMyID Blog

Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.


A friendly face can end up being a not so friendly invite

Jan 29

Freddi Frog

Did you know that two years ago, the people at the Internet security company Sophos created a Facebook profile for a fictional character named Freddi Staur?  Judging from the character’s appearance, you’d probably find Freddi to be cute and charming in a Barney kind of way but green instead of purple.  However, just from appearances alone, would you trust a humble looking green frog?

Sophos had created the character to test a proposition among social networkers to study what percentage of people would respond to Freddi’s “friend” requests and how much personal information they would divulge?  It turned out quite a bit.

According to Sophos experiment, 87 of the 200 Facebook users responded to Freddi’s friend request, while 82 of them leaked some sort of personal information. Of those sharing sensitive information, 84 percent divulged a full date of birth, 87 percent provided details about their workplace or education, and 78 percent listed a current address or location.  This information is enough to commit major identity theft related crimes.

Fast forward to two years later and so little has changed when Sophos reprised its earlier experiment with different fictional characters.  Of the 100 Facebook users, 89 percent shared their date of birth and 74 percent shared their college or workplace information.

The lesson here is if you’re going to maintain an online presence on Facebook or any similar site, it’s best to think through your privacy settings.  Furthermore, be careful with whom you become friends and never divulge sensitive information if it’s not necessary.  It’s better to be extra cautious or you could be the one who ends up turning green if your identity is stolen from a friend invite.