Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Facebook identity theft

The other day I was at dinner with some friends, several of which were Harding faculty, when we somehow got on the topic of Facebook. I remarked that it was easy for someone to create a Facebook account and impersonate someone else. Several years ago at Harding, someone did just that, creating an online persona for the student body president. It was one of those practical jokes that everyone still remembers.

One of my friends who was sitting at the table is well-known for being a Luddite. He refuses to get a cell phone, and he's the last guy in the world who will ever get a Facebook account.

Until now.

I thought it would be fun to set him up with a Facebook account and see how long it takes for him to find out about it. I won't mention this individual's name just yet, but I'll give you a hint: he regularly writes a humor article for The Bison.

So how did I pull off the prank? First, I had to get an email address that looked genuine. So I signed up for a Yahoo account that uses his name. Next I created a Facebook profile using the new email address and beefed up his personal information with some favorite music, books, and activities. His favorite quote?
"Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(This individual really likes magic, so I thought it would be appropriate.)

Then I added a bunch of friends, including myself, and joined a few groups, just to get his name out there. Unfortunately, I couldn't join him to the Harding network since that would require having a harding.edu email address for him.

Just today a few Harding faculty have added him as a friend. He's only had a Facebook account for less than a week, and he's already got 11 friends.

I'm going to see how long it takes for this individual to realize he's got a Facebook account. I assume someone is going to pat him on the back and say, "Wow! I thought I'd never see you on Facebook!" If he doesn't figure it out in a few weeks, I'll tell him myself by sending him an invite to become a friend with himself. Hopefully I haven't broken too many laws and terms of service in pulling this little prank. wink