Social media is a really useful tool for connecting with old friends, keeping a large group of people like your son’s Little League team informed, and generally making a very big world a little bit smaller through the internet. But social media isn’t so fun when users are scammed, threatened, or defrauded; sometimes the damage is just a little naïve embarrassment, as a resurgence of an old hoax has caused.

A Facebook hoax was started years ago, intent on making users question the personal safety of using the platform. The hoax itself, which first started making the rounds as far back as 2012, looks like this:

I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute).

“NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE. copy and paste.”

Some versions of this particular hoax even mention that it was reported on a national news channel, just to lend it credibility. Unfortunately, there’s not a shred of truth to it, but that doesn’t stop people from cutting and pasting it to their wall. The end result is that they’ve highlighted their own ignorance of social media and how it works, opening them up to ridicule from their friends and family who comment on it.

The first thing to understand in breaking down this erroneous post is that Facebook and other websites can do anything outlined in their terms of service. You signed up to use it…not the other way around. If you didn’t read those terms and agreements before you signed up for your account, you might be surprised to find out what they can or will do with your posts.

But the bigger question to ask yourself is why someone might go to the trouble of writing the original post, sharing it, and helping it spread online. What did the person who wrote this particular hoax get out of it? It could be just the laugh at knowing there are people who are gullible enough to fall for it, which is a pretty small-minded thing to do. However, it’s important to understand how this could actually benefit someone who was targeting internet users for the purpose of fraud and identity theft.

Just like a phishing email that lures the recipient into handing over their money or their personal information, a post such as this one would show scammers which social media users might be more likely to fall for a phishing scam, possibly sent through social media. That’s not to say that anyone who posts this message or others like it will become the target of criminals, but it certainly lets them know which individuals might not be the most tech-savvy in the bunch.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.