RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It has probably already happened to you or at least someone you know. A Facebook or Twitter profile hijacked, making it look like someone is posting links to spam web sites.
With hundreds of millions of users all around the world, these popular social networking sites have become prime targets for computer criminals.
At the very least their damage can cause you quite a bit of embarrassment. At the very worst, it could destroy your computer and steal your identity.
Admittedly Collin Wagner spends quite a bit of time on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
"I think I'm addicted," said Wagner.
He uses the sites to stay in touch with friends and family all over the world. So when he started getting reports wondering why he was posting odd links from his profile, he started to get concerned.
"All the sudden it starts spamming your friends," Wagner said describing what happened to his page. "It sends out links and all sorts of nasty bits."
It looked to Collin's face book friends that he was sending them to a link that did unpleasant things to their computer.
"It's a program that starts hacking everything and sending it out," he said.
Collin is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of Facebook and Twitter users have their accounts hacked in a similar fashion every day. And just because it looks like it is from someone you know, that doesn't mean you should click away.
"Peoples email addresses are being hijacked by cyber thieves," said Craig Butterworth of the National White Collar Crime Center. "(You need to) reach out to that individual, the reported sender, verify the information. Did you send it?"
This spam can be more than just embarrassing it can also inflict damage to your computer with just one click. It is yet another reason to be prepared.
That is something Craig Miller of the Chesterfield Credit Union recommends to his customers.
"Make sure your computer has up to date virus software on there in case something does happen," he said.
But despite the threat, these sites continue to add users every day. And it is not stopping people like Collin who have been victimized.
"No, its still fun and I think I'm protected, as of right now," Collin said.
The most any user can hope for in this internet age, Facebook and Twitter have made strides in updating their security protections, but both sites recommend that you create a complex password that changes on a regular basis.
If you learn that you've been hacked, the first thing you should do is change your password immediately.