Study says 1 in 5 Facebook accounts secretly accessed by friends, spouses

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A recent study conducted by the University of British Columbia shows that one in five people have reported secretly accessing the Facebook account of a loved one.

Led by Wali Ahmed Usmani, a computer science graduate attending UBC, a team of researchers conducted a survey of over 1,300 American adults, asking subjects if they have ever snooped into the Facebook account of a family member, associate or a romantic partner without receiving permission.

The results revealed that one fifth of those answered yes.

And when the subjects were asked if they, in turn, had their accounts accessed by someone close to them without their permission, about 21 percent said they had.

RELATED: How to avoid Facebookphishing scams

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How to avoid Facebook phishing scams
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How to avoid Facebook phishing scams

1. Exercise common sense

Why is somebody offering you something that costs them money to purchase - and to market - for free? Does there seem to be a legitimate reason for the offer? What value does the party giving away the object receive in return? Does that value warrant giving away the object - or is the offer simply too good to be true? As you probably learned as a child - "don't take candy from strangers."

2. Consider how much is being given away

Legitimate giveaways done for marketing purposes are typically inexpensive items, downloadable materials, or extremely small quantities of expensive items to a small percentage of sweepstakes winners selected from a targeted group; any offer that claims to be giving away large numbers of expensive items should raise a red flag as doing so rarely makes sense from a business standpoint, especially if the offer is being promoted to the general public on social media.

(Adam Gault via Getty Images)

3. Check if a page is verified

Most major businesses are verified (with a white check on a blue circle - some small businesses have similar marks that are white on gray), so if an offer is ostensibly coming from a large business and the page from which it is being posted is not verified, that may signal problems. Not all businesses are verified; if you see a post from a business that is not verified, however, you can search on the business's name and see if there is a verified account for the business - if there is, you know that the unverified account is likely fake.

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(Nastco)

4. Look at the fine print

Legitimate sweepstakes and giveaways always have some sorts of "fine print" associated with them - if there are no "Offer Details," "Terms and Conditions," or the like, consider a huge red flag to have been raised.

(Reptile8488 via Getty Images)

5. Look for signs of an unprofessional post

Spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, misuse of idioms, writing that appears to have been auto-translated or written without knowledge of "how people speak," or photos that don't seem to match the post are all red flags. Do you really think a major firm running a marketing campaign doesn't check its content before posting it on Facebook?

(Just One Film via Getty Images)

6. Check the page's age and what appeared on it prior to the questionable post

it is a bad sign if a page was created right before an offer post was made. Of course, criminals know that people look out for page age - so they may create pages and post for a while before using the page for scams. So look out for what content was shared before? Does it make sense coming from the business? Do the comments on those posts make sense? Often there are giveaways on such pages that something is amiss.

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Though the social platform has worked to implement security options to help users' accounts become more secure and "hack proof," researchers say unauthorized access into Facebook accounts was largely achieved by using the personal devices of the person who's account was hacked.

Many people leave their phones or computers logged into Facebook and, if unattended, passwords or PINS are not always necessary for others to gain access.

SEE ALSO: Even Mark Zuckerberg uses the same password for different accounts

And though intentions of those who accessed their loved ones accounts spanned a variety of motivations -- jealousy, curiosity, fun, animosity -- researchers found that most who gained access did so out of humor, such as changing the person's profile picture or updating their status to something they thought was funny.

The report encourages people to changes their passwords more frequently and to use an authenticator to prevent unauthorized users. The study suggest users also refrain from giving out their passwords to love ones, and to go even further as to install a passive log that records the amount of time that was browsed on the account when accessed.

But one guaranteed practice researchers advise to stop attacks? Log out of Facebook on your devices when leaving.

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