Over a decade ago, Ann C.’s mother passed away.
As a way to remember her mother, Ann often visits her mom’s Facebook account to look at pictures.
“It got me through some awful times. There were times when I tagged her saying how much I missed her, how much I loved her, how much I wished she could see this,” Ann said.
She continued, “To me, it felt like when I did this, she was there. She was watching. She was listening, and she was part of me still.”
One day, Ann received a Facebook message from her deceased mom’s account that said, “I am risen.”
It turns out that a hacker had taken control of her mother’s Facebook account.
The account had been hacked and the person changed her mother’s name as well as the profile picture on the account.
After changing the account, the hacker made a demand.
“The person said that if I wanted my mother’s account back, then I would have to send them nude photos,” Ann said.
This type of cybercrime is referred to as sextortion.
It’s likely that if Ann had sent the hackers photos they would have turned around and demanded money not to share them.
Ann made the right decision and refused to send the hackers any photos.
Next, she contacted Facebook to try to restore her mother’s account through the company.
Sadly, if Ann loses the account, she will likely lose all the photos and memories that were on her mother’s profile.
“In a perfect world, Facebook would restore her page as a memorial page where you could see old posts and you can tag it,” Ann said.
The reality is that as more people pass away, more social media accounts will be left unused.
Eventually, Facebook accounts that belong to deceased people will outnumber those that belong to living users.
Unfortunately, this opens the door to hackers and scammers who take advantage of deceased people and their families.
It’s commonly called ghost hacking.
Ghost hacking is when cyber criminals take control of a dead person’s online account and use it to carry out other cyber-crimes.
They might use the account to send spam or malicious messages to friends and family.
They could even try to steal personal or financial information from the deceased person.
So, if you have a loved one who has passed and they have social media, here are a few steps you can take to protect their accounts.
Memorialize the account:
Most social media companies, including Facebook, have a feature that allows family members to memorialize a deceased person’s account.
To do this you might have to provide the social media company with documentation such as a death certificate.
Once an account is memorialized it means no one can log into the account.
The account simply stays active as a way for people to share memories.
Delete all online accounts:
If you are concerned about protecting a deceased loved one’s accounts the best thing to do is to ask to have the account deleted.
Many companies will delete accounts if you provide documentation (including a death certificate).
Just remember, if you delete an account, you will lose everything associated with it (photos, memories, etc.).
While it will be time-consuming to do this, it’s the best way to protect your loved ones’ identity from being stolen after they pass.
Assign the account to someone:
One thing that is often overlooked when planning for death is online accounts.
It’s possible to leave online accounts to loved ones in a will.
For instance, a person can have a login and password that is shared with a specific person upon death.
Facebook has a feature that is called a “legacy contact.”
This is a person who is assigned to handle someone’s account upon their death.
The legacy contact can make decisions about the Facebook page and decide what is and isn’t posted.
Planning can save loved ones from a huge headache after a loved one has passed.
This should be a natural extension, and key component of your personal “online protection plan.”
As technology gets a stranglehold on more areas of our lives, it’s vital that you can keep yourself and your private information safe and secure.