Social Media Sites Become ‘Playground’ for ID Thieves
Social networking sites, particularly Facebook and Twitter, have become the playground of identity thieves, according to identity theft expert Robert Siciliano.
A recent survey by Consumer Reports indicated that 52 percent of adult users of social networks such as Facebook and MySpace have posted risky personal information online. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans—roughly equivalent to the number of people who live in New Jersey—have their identities stolen each year.
If your identity is stolen, it can take 30 hours or more and hundreds of dollars to restore your good name and good credit, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
“Social media identity theft happens when someone hacks an account via phishing, creates infected short URLs or creates a page using photos and the victim’s identifying information,” Siciliano said in a news release.
“My prediction … is that the increase in social networking activity, along with a user’s failure to implement security and privacy settings and protocols, will lead to an increased exposure of not only the user’s personal information but possibly that of their ‘friends.’”
So, how do you stay safe on the electronic playground?
• Make sure you install antivirus software and regularly scan your computer.
• Be careful what you post about your whereabouts.
“When you innocently mention that you’re going to be out of town, that’s potentially telling the world when your house will be vacant,” Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, said in a news release. “Even listing daily activities can let strangers know your routine and put you at risk.”
• Ensure that everyone in the family understands what’s OK to share online and what’s not.
• Be picky about who you let into your online world. Include only those people you can be assured will safeguard personal information about you.
• Look at everything you post through the eyes of a thief. See whether you could piece together who you are and where you live by examining what you’ve put online
• Be wary of user-submitted surveys, quizzes and other social networking applications that could result in spam or stolen data.
Here’s one final warning from Siciliano:
“The [social media] websites themselves host millions of users, and they simply can’t protect every user. New technology is developed at a rate that vastly outpaces the security necessary to keep those technologies bulletproof. Essentially, you’re on your own.”