With recent reports of data breaches at Facebook and Google Plus, the general public is now calling on major social media networks to redefine how they collect and use the information that’s published on a user’s profile. Many users are now realizing how easy it is for identity theft through social networking to occur.
How Does Social Media Affect Identity Theft?
To gain revenue, social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus, use targeted advertising based on its users’ personal information. To do this, users are encouraged to share as much information about themselves as possible.
But while it may be great to have everyone wish you a happy birthday online or fawn over those sweet pictures of your children, this public glimpse into your personal life can provide just the right combination of information for identity thieves.
Reconsider publishing the following on your profile:
- Full name, especially with your middle initial or name
- Date of birth (while this is often required to create an account, you likely have the option to not display it publicly)
- Hometown name
- School names, locations and graduation dates
- Children and pet names
- Relationship status
These elements are common for passwords, but they’re also used as the answers to security questions. An identity thief can easily grab your name, birth date and a few more details to get access to your bank accounts, credit reports and similar sensitive profiles.
It goes beyond the “About” section on your profile, though. You may feel inclined to post a status update from your amazing tropical vacation, but doing so just tells the public that you’re away from home. Refrain from posting that you’ll be out of town to prevent identity theft while traveling.
Even seemingly harmless posts can lead to identity theft over the internet. Third-party apps or websites will ask for your login information to let you take a fun online quiz; that website now has access to your profile and any information in it. Viral posts will ask you to share your pet’s name, birthdate or similar information in the comments section to compare with others’ results; these comments sections are gold mines for identity thieves.
Social Media Identity Theft Statistics
- In a 2017 study, Javelin Strategy and Research found that those with active social media presence have a 30% high risk of becoming fraud victims due to increased exposure.
- The same study from Javelin Strategy and Research found that those on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, face a 46% higher risk of account takeover and fraud than those not active on social networks.
- A 2017 report from the Australian Payments Network found that people 55 years old and up are common targets for phone, email, and social media scams.
How to Prevent Identity Theft on Social Media
If you haven’t taken the time to review your privacy settings and what you post online, now’s the time to start. Use this handy checklist to help avoid identity theft through social networking:
- Be stingy about your privacy settings and who is allowed to view your profile and posts
- Limit location settings
- Use a unique username and password combination for each website. Do not create a password with information that is easy to guess, like your birthday or pet’s name
- Don’t allow third parties access to your profile
- Regularly search for your name in search engines to see if anyone is posting as you
- Request your free credit report every 12 months to monitor your account activity
Overall, the best practices to prevent identity theft through social media is to keep as private a profile as possible, limit the information you post and keeping your friends or followers to people you know and trust in real life.
Get Help Recovering from Identity Theft
If you are the victim of identity theft and have errors on your credit report from fraudulent accounts opened in your name, you have the right to dispute these errors and have them removed. The consumer protection attorneys at Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. are ready to help you fight back against identity theft. Get free legal help now and call 1-877-735-8600 to get started!