Are You Giving Thieves What They Want?

OMG! TMI! It’s not just friends and family who are reading your Facebook page.

Protect yourself from theft on social media

Sharing information on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms is pretty much the norm these days. Billions of people are now sharing family news and photos on the Internet.

But be careful. The information you post can give thieves exactly what they want.

“Social media often contain the secrets to crack a password test,” says Robert Siciliano, security expert for McAfee Online. For example, what’s the most common security question asked to reset an account password? It’s your mother’s maiden name. Have you posted that information on Facebook or through other social media? Unfortunately, many people have — without giving it a second thought.

Indeed, Visa’s 2013 Security Survey of 1,000 respondents found that 14% admitted to posting their mother’s maiden name online.

Not only that, but:

  • Nearly 50% shared their birth date;
  • 29% shared their telephone number;
  • 20% revealed their home address;
  • 15% placed themselves at risk for burglary by providing their upcoming travel plans (better to talk about that after you return!); and, worst of all,
  • 7% have shared their Social Security number over social media!

You may think you’re sharing only with your Facebook friends, but you might also be sharing with people you don’t know. According to a survey, about 25% of users accept friend requests from people they don’t know.

Thus, while the use of social media is on the rise, so is identity theft.

When you’re logged in to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter, be smart about what you post and the links you click. Keep your devices’ antivirus, anti-phishing, anti-spyware and firewalls updated — and set strong passwords using a combination of numbers, letters and characters.

Besides those basic steps, here are other things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Read all social media sites’ privacy agreements to see how your information is shared.
  • Adjust privacy settings to help limit who can see your personal information.
  • Think twice about whom you accept as a connection or friend.
  • Don’t post any information that is used for ID verification. This means deleting the schools you attended, birthdates, your mother’s maiden name, etc., from your profiles.
  • Before posting pictures, links or other info, question whether an ID thief might be able to use it for personal gain.

You already know how important it is to protect your financial documents. In today’s world, you must take the same care with your electronic content.

And make sure you discuss this with your children and grandchildren. Has your 12-year-old announced to the world that the family is going on vacation (and the house will therefore be empty for a week)?!

Originally published in Inside Personal Finance July 2015

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