Facebook (FB) has had its fair share of criticism in recent years. Concerns include privacy breaches, failure to monitor and take down divisive or questionable content, and encouraging FOMO (fear of missing out), unhappiness, and even depression when FB users are exposed only to the curated best side of others and become anxious about “likes” for their content.

Much like credit cards, FB has two sides: as a negative tool with harmful effects and bad actors and as a positive tool for education, positive collaboration, and information sharing. I'm going to do a 180º turn from Facebook's many “issues” (nobody says problems anymore!) and share a positive example of how FB helped members of my Florida community.

In February, I taught a class at a local community adult education center and heard a story about a fraud case that I felt I had to share with others, to warn them. So I posted the following message on the community FB page:

I just heard a true story from a local older adult (read: someone just like us) while teaching a class this morning. The person's credit card information was recently hacked by someone who placed a skimming device on a gas pump at a local gas station within 4 miles of our community. The victim only has one credit card and is now without any credit card access for a week or so until a new card arrives.

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Here are 4 take-aways for everyone to consider:

  1. Consider paying cash for gas. I always pay cash for gas (to avoid possible skimmers) and at restaurants (to avoid dishonest waiters who could skim my account number- or take a cell phone photo of it- and commit ID theft). Nobody touches my credit card but me. It is a risk reduction strategy.
  2.  If you use a credit card for gasoline, a red flag for skimming machines is when you have to swipe your card multiple times to get the transaction to go through. If this happens, stop swiping and notify staff of the issue with the pump.
  3.  If you use a credit card for fuel, try to use pumps closest to where gas station workers are. According to ID theft experts, pumps farthest away from where workers can see them are more likely to have skimming devices placed on them. The victim used a pump on the outskirts of the gas station.

  4.  Have a second “Plan B” credit card just in case unexpected events like this happen.

Again, a true story from a local older adult that we can all learn lessons from.

From, there, community members shared additional cautionary advice related to credit card and online security. Not only did they discuss skimming devices, but also personal security strategies, RFID (radio-frequency identification) sleeves, and contactless “tap and go” credit cards that have the icon used to identify Wi-Fi on them. They also shared tips and fraud warnings of their own.

Below are some examples:

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  •    Another credit card tip. We use a credit card just for online purchases. It has a low line of credit attached to it. This way, if the card number is compromised, it will be easy to spot.
  •    Most credit cards allow you to set up alerts when the card is used for a transaction above a set dollar amount. I have all of mine set up to notify me of any transaction over 1 cent. So, I get a text message whenever my cards are used. I've caught scam transactions this way and immediately contacted the credit card company.
  •    If you tap and pay with your card, it uses a different technology. You cannot be skimmed with tap and pay.

  •    Be careful using the drive-through cash machine at your bank also. Our debit card was compromised at our own bank. The drive-through machine is serviced by an outside vendor. Lesson learned. A branch of the bank in question is located close to our community.

The FB posts reminded me of a threaded discussion for an online college course where students are expected to read what their peers have posted and contribute new information to the conversation that adds value. However, in this case, the posts were not being graded. Instead, they were completely organic, positive, and helpful.

Facebook (and other social media) has the potential to live up to its promise of connecting individuals in a positive way. My initial post about credit card fraud is an example.

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