Social Media is more popular this day than ever. There’s always a news story about phishing and other identity scams in the news. Lately, those scams seem to focus on social networking apps, like Facebook and Pinterest. In most of the stories, a phishing email is used to try to capture personal information, and login details and install viruses to track your online activity, steal your data and capture your keyboard log.
What you may not realize is how much information you’re unknowingly providing to identity thieves through your social networking profiles. Social networking apps are fun, but you should use caution if you take part in these communities. People don’t think often that the info you put on Facebook for your friends and family that you trust and adore can end up in the wrong hands through network hacking and trojan viruses.
Here are some areas you should be especially cautious about and think twice before you make your data public:
1. Your Full Name:
Your name isn’t the most crucial point of data in identity theft, but it does give identity thieves a place to start. Many times, a web search for a name turns up all the information that an identity theft needs, especially if that thief is willing to shell out a few dollars for a background report. So use an Alias or a nickname to protect your true identity.
2. Where You Live:
Oh, the image of Geotagging can be dangerous! Social networking sites often ask for your location when you create an account and this information is usually displayed for other users to see. Identity thieves can snag this information when using the Web and it won’t take them more than 3 minutes to find your physical address. So use a geo-location that is close to you but not your exact town. You can make one up or choose some other city and state. In some services, you can also leave this blank. Whatever you do, be cautious.
3. Date of Birth
This is a big No-No! This is another item that’s usually requested when you sign up for a social networking site. It’s also one more piece of information that an identity thief can use against you. Sure, it’s cool when all of your community friends send you birthday greetings, but is it really worth the risk? Don’t provide your real date of birth. It’s not nearly as fun, but you can rely on your real-world friends to send you cool birthday greetings and then rest easy knowing that you’re protecting your identity online. This DOB can be key to retrieving your credit report and getting credit cards in your name and may be getting your social security card.
4. Vacation Planning
The last thing you want to do is tell the bad guys that you are not going to be home and invite them to help themselves..It is fun to brag to your friends about your vacation plans but you could be paying a big price when you return home.
5. Maiden Names
Another security question is often “What is your maiden name?” Or “What is your mother’s maiden name?” It’s a fact that identity thieves can acquire in a variety of ways: from hacking your social networking profile, from genealogical requests, or from a birth certificate obtained by request from your state of birth. No need to make it easy for an identity thief. Make up a maiden name to use on profiles online that’s completely unrelated to your family history, and be very careful about the genealogical information that you post in forums, even if they’re private.