Identity theft is a big problem of course. What makes it worse of course is that the social media giants are often selling information about you and allowing unscrupulous vendors more access than the mega media titans understand.
That being the case, the focus has got to be on you – what information you provide and how you participate.
My bottom line advice is to assume anything you put on Facebook (for example) will become public. Of course the same goes for other social media outlets.
The problem is that many of us release much more information that we even realize. Think of the types of information people generally share on Facebook:
- Birthday (even if you don’t share the same birth year, if you share the same high school graduating class, an ID thief can guess at your full birthday)
- Hometown name
- Family names (including mother’s maiden name, or other family names if you share them or you do the family tree apps)
- Pet names
- Favorites (books, authors, historical figures, foods)
- Phone number
Some of this information can be used to directly steal your identity. Other information, like favorites and pet names, are commonly used as passwords or security questions.
One of the things scammers from the PSN hack did was to take the user names and passwords used for PSN and try the combinations on major bank websites. A similar tactic can be used with information found on Facebook.
Try variations of your name as a username, with your pet’s name on your credit card issuer’s site, and your identity can be quite effectively stolen.
ID thieves could also potentially pose as you over the phone by getting answers to common security questions while trawling Facebook.
They wouldn’t need your account number or Social Security number. Just call up and give your name, and then answer a couple of security questions.
Even if these creeps don’t steal your identity, bad players who get a hold of this data can use it to market to you in unsettling ways. Who needs it?
Protecting Yourself from Facebook ID Theft
Remember, if you assume that anything you add to a social media site is public, you go a long distance towards protecting yourself.
Having said that, it’s important to check the privacy settings, and make them stringent enough that only your “friends” can see information about you. That means using the highest privacy setting available.
Then, be choosy about who gets to “friend” you on Facebook. This is a very important step and make sure you have an automatic reminder to revisit the privacy settings every 3 months.
Facebook changes its default settings regularly and messes with privacy often. You need to review your privacy settings.
To do that, use the drop down menu under “Account” in the upper right of your Facebook page. You can choose who gets to see your information and even customize settings for each class of item on your profile.
Also, please, if you want to do a quiz – try a crossword puzzle from a newspaper. Don’t participate in online quizzes. They often ask you questions to learn about you and later use what they learn to unlock your private information.
Next, stay away from links and apps that are offered up to you via Facebook. They often contain trojan horses designed to get inside the head of your computer and then ransack it.
Last, be careful about your posts. Don’t tell the world about your vacation plans – or even where you plan to go. At the very least, thieves can use that information to know when you won’t be home.
Thieves are smart. Don’t underestimate them. Sometimes the information scammers use seems legit.
It is possible to get your e-mail address from Facebook, and then get the name of a friend you know from somewhere.
Then, using information from your two profiles about your interactions, it is possible to pose as a friend “caught overseas and in need of money.”
Yes, Facebook is fun. But you need to be smart about the information you put out there. And, when you do share personal information, you need to do your best to keep it private.