The world of social media has changed the definition of the word “friend.”

Now, a friend might be someone who works in your same career field, someone you knew in second grade but haven’t seen since, or just a person you chatted with for an hour in a very long line waiting for coffee. The connections we form online are very real, even if they’re not exactly the same as the ones we have in “real life.”

That’s why Facebook introduced an option several years ago that allows you to identify known friends for support with your account if there’s ever a problem. In your security settings, you can designate people you’re connected with as Trusted Contacts. This is a way of designating some of your connections as people you can count on if your account is compromised and you need to regain access.

Here’s how it works: in your security settings, you’ll choose three to five friends to be your Trusted Contacts. They must be people that you can reach out to some other way besides Facebook, like email or by phone. Facebook will send them an email, letting them know you’ve requested to add them as a Trusted Contact. If they agree, then they provide an easy extra layer of protection. If you’re ever locked out of your account—such as through forgetting your password and user email, or if your account is hacked—you can contact these people and have them request their unique “code” from Facebook. Once they give you their codes, you simply enter at least three of them and regain access to your account.

What could lead to losing control of your Facebook account? Hacking is an obvious answer, although account takeover in which someone figures out the password to your account and then locks you out is a common culprit, as well.

Facebook does want you to keep a few things in mind about choosing these people, and therefore provides the following guidelines on their site:

  • Choose people you trust, like friends you’d give a spare key to your house.
  • Choose people you can reach without using Facebook, ideally over the phone or in person, since you’ll need to contact them when you can’t log in.
  • Choose more people to help you. The more friends you choose, the more people who can help you when you need it.

In order to set up your Trusted Contacts in your account, go to your security settings by clicking here. While you’re taking the time to do this, it’s also a good idea to review your privacy settings. That way, you know you won’t be oversharing, which can lead to account takeover.

As always, anyone who believes their identity has been stolen or their personal data has been compromised is invited to connect with the ITRC through our 24-hour toll-free call center at (888) 400-5530, or on-the-go with the new IDTheftHelp app for iOS and Android.

Questions about identity theft? Connect with the ITRC through our toll-free call center at (888) 400-5530, or on-the-go with the new IDTheftHelp app for iOS and Android.