Hashtag Life: Stolen Identities

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A third of the world’s population has a profile on Facebook. The social networking platform allows users to connect with just about anyone, anywhere. A Dothan teen learned the hard way that having a public profile doesn’t just leave you open to meeting new friends, it also leaves you exposed to thieves.

For more than a year, pictures from Erica Wall's Facebook profile were being used on the profile of someone named Brianna Weldon. She was only alerted to the profile when an acquaintance noticed a resemblance in pictures. After doing some searching of her own, Wall’s found the page filled with her pictures.

“She had a lot, enough for someone to think that it was really me, enough to think that she had my friends, had my brother had my dogs my friend's kids. I mean it was crazy,” explained Walls.

Walls and her friends bombarded the person operating the Brianna Weldon’s page with messages. While the page has been taken down, Wall’s guard remains up. But just because there are risks doesn’t mean you should get off social media altogether. John Sileo knows all too well about identity theft. He has his identity stolen, not once, but twice.

“Unfortunately I am an expert for all the wrong reasons,” joked Sileo. “I didn’t pay attention to these topics of privacy and identity theft and I had my identity stolen twice, I ended up losing over 300 thousand dollars and that was very motivating for me to learn.”

Now Sileo makes it his personal goal to educate people about the dangers of being online

“It’s absolutely imperative that they protect themselves online but very few people do it. Everything from when you initially set up the account to look at what you're putting out there and how much information that gives on you. I have to say particularly that teens are desensitized to giving out information between Facebook and Instagram and Snap Chat, you're used to giving it all away and they don't understand when they do that, its public whether they think its private or not its social networking.”

Sileo says that social media and safety go hand-in-hand.

“When you're driving a car, I mean it can be dangerous right? But you put on your seat belt, you get a car with air bags, you drive defensively, it’s the same thing when you're setting up social media. Every time you do it you have to utilize those tools if you don't go in and customize it so you're not sharing with absolutely everyone you're not going to be safe.”

Although Walls and Sileo both had their identity stolen, they have both found their way back to social media after updating their privacy settings and becoming more cautious about who they connect with online.

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