Twelve million people experienced some form of identity theft in 2012., according to a study by Javelin Strategy and Research. The study also noted that rising identity theft numbers are due in part to increased use of social networks. Social media is the one place where people seem to forget they are putting their personal information out for the world to see.
The Social Media Trap
People using social media tend to put just the right information online needed by someone to steal their identities. Nearly 54 percent of social media profiles have been the target of an identity theft attempt, reports NextAdvisor. They found that 15 percent of the people have reported their accounts were accessed without their knowledge, and almost 70 percent of people were directed to visit a suspicious website by getting a private message through their social media profiles.
There is nothing about social media that makes it a safer place to post personal information. Your name, date of birth and state of residence is enough for identity thieves to cause you problems. It only takes a little personal information to get them started.
Some interesting statistics on social media use, reports NextAdvisor, include the percentage of people who:
- Leave their full name on their pages: 93 percent
- Leave the names of family members on their pages: 60 percent
- Leave the name of their current employer on their pages: 33 percent
- Leave their home address on their page: 4 percent
How Do Identity Thieves Access Social Media Profiles?
Your social media accounts are not part of a contest. You won’t get an award for having more friends than someone else. One way thieves gain access to your information is to friend your account. If you accept anyone’s friend request — not just people you know in real life — you open yourself up to ID theft risks.
Another way thieves steal your information is through your profile, of which 30 percent of people don’t have set to private. Almost 14 percent don’t even know how to set their profile privacy settings! These controls are in place to prevent this kind of activity.
Making Your Social Media a Safer Place
One of the key actions to take when it comes to social media is to make sure you manage your passwords. Many people use the same password they use on other accounts, including access to financial information. Almost 40 percent of people use a similar password for different accounts, according to NextAdvisor.com. It’s a hassle changing passwords every month, having unique passwords on every account or using nonsensical passwords. But it will be a bigger challenge to clean up the mess should someone take over your identity.
Another step to protecting yourself is to review identity theft protection services. LifeLock is a great choice for ID theft protection and has many services to protect you while traveling, too. These services make it easy to take action, should you suspect your personal information has been taken for fraudulent use.
Only connect with people you know on your social media and only post the minimal information in your profile so people can find you. Take time to learn about the privacy settings, and use them to control who has access to your information.
Wrong Info in Wrong Hands
Remember to also be careful about revealing your location on social media. It’s a sure way to announce to the world you’re not home, which is just what a thief wants to know before they break into your residence.
How do you keep your identity safe on social networks? Share your tips in the comments.
About Guest Author
William David is a freelancer from Detroit who specializes in SEO, social media networking tips, and trends in the tech world.