Social Media & Identity Theft

Social media can be a source of Identity Theft. How can you protect yourself?

Most of us don’t think twice about the information we post on LinkedIn, Facebook, dating sites, and other online social media, but we really should. How many of us share our hobbies, information about our family, pet’s names, date of birth, the year we were born, spouses name, high school, college, town we grew up in, our career position, personal email and more? This allows the public access to personal information that can be used against us. A criminal can learn a lot about us from these social media sites and using that knowledge they can decide if we are a good mark based on the potential profits they might make and how much easier their job will be due to what they have learned through public resources.

When we set up online accounts for our credit card, bank accounts, credit reports, social media sites and more we set up security questions and passwords. Most of us make these passwords and answers publicly available through social media. From being in the credit repair business, I have learned a lot about passwords, and I can’t tell you how many people use a pet’s, child’s, spouse’s, or their own name with some combination of numbers for their password. Many also make their username obvious because in most cases it’s the email they use publicly. All it would take is a good guess and a thief would be able to access information that could put you in jeopardy. How many of us answer security questions like “What town did you grow up in?” or “What is your pet’s name?”. Wow those questions would be so hard to answer after visiting your Facebook page right? Even if thieves couldn’t hack into your credit card direct but accessed your account on social media how many sites list our credit cards on the auto pay section with the name of the creditor and some portion of the account number, if not all of it visible to the viewer? They can also see the billing address once they make the right guess of your password and get into your account. Now they know your credit card provider, billing address, and a password you use.

How many of us use the same password for everything? The answer is probably around 70%. The other 30% are probably past ID Theft victims who know better from experience. With all of the information easily available a criminal can begin the process of using existing accounts and opening new accounts in your name. They will be building wealth for themselves at your expense.

How can we be popular online and protect ourselves?

If we are going to list important info a lot of it can be left invisible to the public by controlling our settings. We can also leave out certain facts like the town we live in or grew up in and our birth date etc. Why give others the opportunity to use our information? Is it that important to have hundreds of people wish you a happy birthday on Facebook that you would be willing to put your identity at risk? You may even think someone from the past is a friend that is reconnecting but we do not know what others’ intentions are and if you give them information along with your data presented on Facebook , LinkedIn, etc. it could be an equation for disaster. Never update the username email address that is associated with any of your user and passwords on credit card, bank accounts, and your social media site account info to the public. Pick out a different email address to offer as your contact point if you are going to display it publicly. Use a password that has nothing to do with any personal info that one might gather from your social media sites.

Always be aware that in the majority of instances anyone can connect to our information and then use it against us. As tempting as it may be, please refrain from posting personal information that you use for security purposes online for your own protection.