Identity theft is a part of social media
The sad truth is that identity theft is a part of social media, and no one is immune, but do you really know how vulnerable your information is? Separately, each bread crumb you leave around the web is harmless, but an identity thief that pieces them together can damage your credit, be it personal or business credit.
Julie Myhre, Editor at NextAdvisor.com offers the following list of 7 ways to avoid identity theft on social media networks:
1. Keep your personal information private: The previous year’s report – 2012 Identity Fraud Report – by Javelin included social media behaviors, and found that of the people with public social media profiles, 68 percent shared their birthday information, 45 percent of them included their full birth date; 63 percent shared their high school name; 18 percent shared their phone number; and 12 percent shared their pet’s name.
It is always better to omit information about yourself rather than include it on your social media. Just because there is an option to include your current city doesn’t mean you have to. Instead, opt to include a generalized version of that information or no information at all. For example, San Francisco Bay Area is a general option for Burlingame, CA. It still gives some information, but makes it a little more difficult to figure out your zip code or home address.
2. Set strict privacy settings: Go into the settings for your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Linkedin, and edit your privacy settings. Make sure you make all of your personal information — such as your birthday, current location, workplace, etc. — private or visible to only your friends. When your privacy settings are more lenient, you’re giving strangers easy access to all of your information.
3. Don’t tag or post your specific location: Tagging or posting your specific location is an exciting feature, but not everyone needs to know where you are at all times. It makes you and your home vulnerable, especially if your profile is public. It’s fun to let your social media friends know that you’re at Disneyland with your sister, however you’re also letting everyone know that you’re more than 100 miles away from your home, which makes it available for break-ins.
4. Know your friends/connections: It’s important not to make you or your information vulnerable to people who you have never met before in real life. Steven J.J. Weisman — lawyer, author and professor at Bentley University — said that befriending people that you don’t know makes it easier for them to take the information on your social media and use it to find more information about you.
“These ‘friends,’ who don’t know you gain access from your Facebook page to personalized information that often can be used to make you a victim of identity theft,” he said,” often by providing information that can permit someone to learn or reasonably guess your email address or answer your security questions.”
Don’t just add someone as a friend because they wanted to add you. There is such thing as a “decline” button, and you should use it every now and then. If someone adds you, and you’re unsure of who they are, you can always add them, then unfriend, unfollow, unconnect, etc. if you realize they’re a stranger.
5. Always log out of your social media: This is especially true when you’re using a public computer at a library or hotel. The reality is that we all have some private information on our social media — even if it’s only our name and a photo — and you don’t want to give someone easy access to your identity.
6. Use strong passwords: Passwords are one of the keys to protecting your identity, so make them effective. Check out this blog post to learn how to choose a secure password.
7. Use an Internet security software suite: This software protects your identity when you’re surfing the web or using social media. Weisman said that sometimes you will open a link or download a file included in messages from “friends,” and, without your knowledge, the link or file contains a keystroke malware program that can steal all your personal information from your computer. “You trusted the message because it came from a ‘friend,’” he said.
A way to prevent this from happening is to get anti-virus software that prevents, detects and removes malware to keep your identity safe. Most Internet security software suites come with identity theft protection features like anti-keylogging, secure environments or encrypted password protection.
The only real solution:
While all of these steps are helpful in preventing identity theft on social media, Ravi Bhatia of Highly Relevant in Los Angeles said the only way to truly protect your identity on social media is to not use it. “People should use social media only if they’re willing to accept the small chance that it can ruin them,” he said. “If they fear the consequences, then they should avoid them at all costs.”
Bhatia is not the only one with this sentiment, but for those that use social networking sites, at least use the seven steps above to safeguard yourself and your business.