If you are like the majority of people today, you have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or a LinkedIn profile. Social media is a booming industry and a place for people to be open, transparent, and truly connected to the world. But, how safe is it? Can social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn continue to request access various facets of your life without a boost in security? The Identity Fraud Report published by Javelin Strategy and Research shows that 12.6 million people were victims of identity theft in 2012.
A survey of U.S. consumers was conducted in October of 2012 to identify the impact of identity theft and fraud and uncover areas where consumers need to be more cautious. The results showed that although the average time a fraudulent ID was used maliciously, the total dollar amount stolen has reached a three-year high at $21 billion dollars.
It begs the question, how many of these victims posted too much information online?
The findings seem to prove that consumers need to be more cautious about protecting their identity. One step in the right direction is protecting yourself against identity thieves scouring social media for a way in.
Here are seven ways in which you can protect your identity.
Keep your personal information to yourself
In the previous year’s Identity Fraud Report, social media behaviors were analyzed and found that of those with social media profiles, 68% shared birthday information, 45% included a full birth name, 63% shared high school information, and 18% shared their home phone numbers. For most social profiles, this information is unnecessary and can be omitted or generalized. It is always better to leave out unnecessary information and make it that much more difficult for a would-be thief to work harder to find a home address or zip code.
Set strict privacy settings
When privacy settings are not set, or set to leniently, you are giving strangers easy access to your information. With a few simple clicks, you can hide most of your information including address, current location, birthday, and home phone numbers.
“Hey Everyone! I am Not Home Right Now!”
When you ‘check-in’ on Facebook or tag yourself at a specific location you provide the ‘all clear’ to burglars. A ‘check-in’ essentially is telling everyone that you are not home, or will not be home for a while creating the potential for a break-in.
Often times, people will often ‘friend,’ or connect with individuals they do not know. The problem arises when individuals start adding people that they have no real life connection with. Without verification, it would be easy for an individual to set up a fake account and monitor your activities or gather information that could be used against you. Be aware of individuals you are friends with on social media sites.
You Don’t Leave Your Keys in the Car When You Park it, Do You?
Obviously, this is especially true when using a public computer at a school or library. We all have some private information on social media sites whether it be credit card numbers, bank account information, or social security numbers. It is best to ensure that if your computer was used by someone else, they do not have access to that information. Log out every time you are done on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media site.
‘Password’ is not a good password
Passwords are the easiest way to protect your information. Why, then, would someone choose something easy to guess or crack. According to CBS News, the most common two passwords in use today are ‘password’ and ‘123456,’ followed shortly by ‘abc123,’ ‘qwerty,’ and ‘letmein.’ It is mind-boggling that someone would take the time to put a lock on their front door and using the same key as everyone else.
Internet Security Suites
There are plenty of scam artists, viruses, spam, and cookies out there. They are all trying to sneak into your system and steal your information. A simple keylogger, a virus that remembers all the keys you type, can be downloaded onto your computer through an email, a Facebook message, or even a normal everyday website. This virus allows thieves to record all your login information and passwords for any websites that you go to including credit card accounts, bank accounts, social media sites and many more. An internet security suite such as AVG, McAfee, or Norton can seek out, prevent, and destroy these viruses, protecting both you and your computer.
Social media has its dangers, and the only foolproof way to avoid them is to completely delete your social media accounts. Most of us are not willing to do this, so by following these simple steps, you can further protect yourself from identity theft.