Identity theft is a serious threat, and it’s never going away. All people can do is get smarter about how they keep their identity protected. That’s easier said than done, as criminals are always in cahoots to find new identity theft techniques.
The “power in numbers” theory can apply in reverse, though. People need to inform those around them of all the ways they can keep their identity safe. Whenever new identity theft methods come up, they need to get exposed on a wide scale.
There are many ways social networks can become involved in identity fraud. What is most important is knowing how to prevent that from happening in the first place. Here are the latest ways people secure their social network activity.
Social networks are a new platform for identity thieves to enter. This does not mean that social websites like Facebook and Twitter are aiding in the crime. Instead, it just means that it’s another area where criminals might try to gather information to defraud you.
In most cases, an identity theft victim who got defrauded via social networking activity lacks common sense in the safety department. These are people that are literally sharing pictures of their paychecks over the Web, to strangers at that!
It is easy to get the full name of someone from their page or their connections. Many security questions can also get answered with just a little research. For example, if the question is your mother’s hometown, the answer might show to the public on her account. If an attacker can find these details, they can breach your account and gain access to everything that was once private.
That example is commonplace on Facebook, where at least 1% of accounts still use simple security questions. The intruder can change your password by getting the question right and linking a new e-mail address. Then, anything on your Facebook becomes accessible to them. The attacker can also impersonate you, which might get them more information.
Facebook now has many other password recovery methods. It’s a good idea to look at the alternatives and choose one. Aside from that, you should consider whether your e-mail accounts can get breached the same way. An attacker might creep your Facebook, find the security question answers, and apply them to your e-mail account. This gets them another potential set of information, putting them a step closer to stealing your identity.
Set different passwords for each account, even if through a password manager. Avoid linking and syncing accounts and e-mail addresses as much as possible. Remove any private or sensitive data, even if it’s just a ‘part of the puzzle.’
It’s not hard to protect yourself from identity theft if you are cautious. The low protection used for years does not correct itself in a day. Sometimes there are security loopholes that need to be fixed.
The best motto to use when dealing with privacy on the Internet is that there is none!
Anything can be hacked, and government agencies are watching everything. No matter what people tell you, there could always be another set of eyes on your “private” conversations.
It’s not just about the unexpected hackers but also the risk of security breaches. No social network, or website, is safe from intrusion. If data reaches the wrong hands, it will get used in a bad way. The Target data breach is a prime example of the potential dangers here. While social network breaches do not reveal direct info, there is still a lot to learn like a customer’s payment details. The fact that your account could get breached means you need to always be on high-alert of identity theft risks.
Look through your conversations and see if you are giving out dangerous info. Many use social networks (especially Facebook) as a means of communication. This is even more noticeable among family members. If you are passing credit card information through private messages, those conversations should later get deleted. A hacker could stumble upon this hours, weeks, or years after the fact, which could get used against you.
Social networks thrive off interaction, but sometimes the reach extends too far. If it’s a personal account, such as your Facebook page, chances are you do not have anything to share with strangers. You would not want your kid’s pictures to end up in the hands of a fixated stalker. You also wouldn’t want your information in the hands of an identity thief.
So, why publicize so much?
Every social network has its own privacy settings. It’s up to you to decide how extensive you want to control your accounts. But, the most important thing is to hide as much personal information as possible. Your friends either have no reason to know or already know your birthday, e-mail address, hometown, current city, etc. For each post or status you share, you should limit your audience.
Also, watch for any changes to privacy controls at the social networks you use, which can serve as a major setback.
For example, Facebook dropped the ability to hide your profile from search. Around the same time, they made it mandatory for your main profile picture to show to the public. Cover photos were also made 100% public. Without knowing, many users had a greater amount of content and media shared with the public. You never know when risky info becomes accessible, so watch for privacy updates!