When using Facebook, most users think they’re dealing with real people, real companies and honest application developers. Why? After all, it’s still the Internet.
But that’s not the only way people screw up and cause themselves costly errors and legal battles. Here are some easy ways anyone could get caught on the wrong side of the law or out of pocket just from a quick visit to Facebook.
Real Names Does NOT Mean Friendly People
Facebook’s real name policy means that most of the people you see are actually using their real name. It lulls people into a false sense of security, which can lead to trouble. This helps scams like the Western Union transfer scam and work at home scams take hold, because it starts with a local group and a friendly looking face with a real profile. The same goes for most scams on Facebook: if the post from your friend looks dodgy, it’s pretty likely they were hacked.
Careless Words Can Cost You
So, you’re grumpy at your boss’s decision and you lashed out in a Facebook update? You could lose your job. Or maybe you griped about a piece of software you use for your job, could that be considered sharing company secrets? If so, you might lose your job and be up for a lawsuit. A bad attitude, inappropriate photos or poor grammar could also make you look like a bad decision in the eyes of an employer.
Jobs aside, there are other ways to let careless words cost you on Facebook. Recently, a girl called Dana Snay has potentially cost her father $80,000 by telling the world about how he won his lawsuit: all because he had agreed to a confidentiality clause in the fine print. Dana also presumably had the sense to delete the post soon after it caused trouble, but not to remove this reputation-killing photo of herself.
Another way to get in trouble with the law quickly with careless words is to mention people or products in your updates, as you might unwillingly infringe on trademarks or have your post considered slander or libel (usually only enforced if the company or person doesn’t like your post in some way).
Employers Shouldn’t Look At Profiles Before Interviewing
Good HR managers are probably well aware of this, but small business owners may not have thought of it yet: if you go looking at Facebook profiles before you interview a person, the candidate may well feel they have been discriminated against for some reason. Given how much a lawsuit of that sort could cost you, it’s best to leave these checks until after the interview. Or perhaps never.
Data Costs Can Add Up
When you’re using Wi-Fi at home, it’s no big deal for most people. You look at Facebook on your phone and upload photos and there’s nothing to worry about. Once you start using 3G or 4G data plans, you are usually facing a lower data cap and could face a large bill by using too much data. If you go overseas it gets exponentially worse, with roaming data costs set at exorbitant amounts for most carriers worldwide.
You may recall the story of a British teenager who cost her dad $6,000 by uploading Facebook photos while in America. Now, while her case is exceptional —and she clearly agreed to going over $500 where most people would have stopped — you can see how these things can quickly get out of hand and cause a whopping bill for you to pay.
Security Risks Can Lead To Financial Loss
If someone got into your Facebook account, what sort of havoc could they wreak? For starters, they’d have enough information to potentially rack up some new bills for you with identity fraud. They could possibly defraud your friends by asking for money, sharing scams and spam, or maybe they could try to hold your account hostage until you pay up. There are many risky security mistakes you can make online and with your smartphone security. Avoid all of them. Also, learn how to protect your Facebook account, how to log out on other devices, and how to set up trusted contacts.
Competitions Can Get You Into Trouble
If you have a page, it’s common to want to run competitions to get a little publicity. But did you know that asking people to “Share to enter” could get your page banned? That could be a costly mistake. All that work to build the page up could be gone in an instant. You might want to check out ways to run your Facebook competitions within the rules.
Are You Sure You Can Sell That?
Despite Facebook being a great marketplace and meeting place for people who want to buy and sell goods, are you really sure you can sell the things you have? For instance, it’s not always legal to buy or sell second-hand software, depending on your local laws and the various EULAs you may have signed with a mandatory update.
You should really make sure you know what you’re allowed to do and which things will land you in hot water. And in case you consider these offline crimes, there are police who do check Facebook and connect the dots. If you use your Facebook profile to make the sale, you make their job really easy.
More Crimes You Could Commit Online
MakeUseOf has previously covered another selection of interesting crimes you can commit on your computer, usually unwittingly, that is well worth a look if you want more information on this. Many of these are dependent on where you live, so they may not apply to you. However, it’s interesting to see that you could potentially be arrested for using Skype in Ethiopia, or forwarding emails in Syria. Your office sports pool could be illegal too, so watch out!
What huge, costly mistakes have you seen people make on Facebook?