Most Facebook users have seen the sketchy signs of an account hack before. The first indications might come when a friend’s account starts posting content that just seems off or that marks a clear break from his or her personality and usual posting habits. Another signal might come in the form of a friend request from someone who is already an established contact on Facebook. Or maybe a friend’s account sends out a personal message asking for monetary help or pitching the benefits of a seemingly random product or service.
Whatever the telltale signs, spotting the hack of a friend’s Facebook account is usually easy. But because most Facebook users do not see or review their own posts regularly, recognizing that their account has been hacked can be a trickier endeavor.
For users looking to keep their Facebook accounts out of the hands of ill-intentioned fraudsters, here are seven common signs that an account has been hacked:
- Login troubles: One of the first moves many hackers do when taking over an account is to change the email address and/or password associated with the account, all to cut off the legitimate owner’s account access. For this reason, the first sign of a compromised account is issues logging in.
- Changes to personal and account information: Beyond changes to the email address and password, hacked users could see changes to personal information in their account profile. Concerned users should keep an eye out for changes to their name, birthday, current city and other personal details.
- Unfamiliar timeline posts or shares: When shares and posts appear on a user’s timeline despite the user never engaging in any such activities, this is a sure sign that the account has been compromised. Those who discover any such unauthorized activity should immediately remove these suspicious posts and shares and change their passwords right away.
- Alerts and/or complaints from friends: Frequently, a user’s friends will be the first to notice an account has been compromised as hackers often use compromised accounts to attempt to gain sensitive information from the hacked user’s contacts. So users should immediately double-check the integrity of their account when friends report strange messages from them on Facebook Messenger or seeing odd activity in their timelines.
- Odd access locations: To help prevent account intrusion, Facebook (when users approve) keeps track of where users log in to their accounts along with the devices they use when doing so. So, when a login attempt is made from an out-of-the-ordinary location or device, users might receive an email from Facebook alerting them to the atypical activity. Of course, if the user does not recognize the location or device mentioned in such an email, there is a good chance that a hacking attempt has been made. (To manage Facebook Location settings, users can follow this Facebook-provided guidance.)
- Unrecognized friend requests: Once a hacker has gained unauthorized access to a Facebook user’s account, he or she will often try to build on the break-in by attempting to glean personal information from other Facebook users. And one of the best ways to gain added access to another user’s personal details is to become friends with him or her on Facebook. For this reason, when a user notices that friend requests have been sent from his or her account to people he or she does not know, it is often a sign of a successful hacking attempt. (This article provides a quick rundown on how a user can see his or her sent friend requests on Facebook.)
- Suspicious personal messages and/or emails: Similar to the tactic mentioned just above, hackers will often try to pose as the user they have hacked to trick the user’s friends into sending them money or performing some other desired action. As a result, hacked users will often discover Facebook Messenger messages sent from their account that they do not recognize. Another clue that a hacking attempt has been made is when a user receives “attempted account recovery” emails from Facebook when he or she has made no such recovery attempt.
Resources for hacking victims
Users who think their Facebook account has been hacked should immediately visit this Facebook page devoted to securing hacked accounts. Facebook also offers a number of security features and tips designed to help users keep their accounts secure.
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