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Social Media May Lead to Identity Theft

Founded in 1951, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling is the largest serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. Find various topics in this blog, including personal finance, credit counseling, housing, budgeting and student loan help. Click here to speak with an NFCC-certified Consumer Credit Counselor.

By Jana Castanon

Do you post your status on Facebook, sharing where you are, and what’s going on in your life?  Do you know all of your connections on LinkedIn? Research shows that sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter are fast becoming the latest stomping ground for identity theft thieves. Although the information you share may seem harmless, it could also make you a victim.     

Below are some tips to help you avoid social media identity theft.

Protect your privacy.  Anytime you register on a new site, you’re asked to agree to the privacy and security notices. But do you actually read these policies? More likely you click “agree” and move on.  If you don’t read the whole agreement, you may want to find out what information they are sharing about their users with third parties or solicitors. That way your information is secure. Also, make sure the privacy settings on your social networking accounts are set with the maximum amount of security possible. 

Protect your information.  Install a firewall, and anti-spam and anti-virus software on your computer, and keep them updated!  Think of it like a yearly flu shot or check up for your computer. Identity thieves constantly create new versions of viruses so keeping your computer protected is essential. Also, create strong passwords that you use for your various log ins. You may want to store these passwords on a secured site or in a password-protected file so you don’t forget them. Although it’s convenient resist automatically saving your password on sites, and log off sites when you’re finished. This may reduce the ability of thieves to track your web surfing, and will help prevent strangers from infiltrating your account. Lastly, don’t post your address, phone number, or email address on a social media site. Scam artists, as well as marketing companies, may be looking for this information.

Don’t overshare. Remember that whatever goes on the internet may be viewed by an unintended audience. Would you want a stranger, your mother, or a potential employer to see certain information or pictures? If not, think twice before posting! Also, be mindful of information you share on friends’ social media accounts because even though your account may be secure, theirs may not. And don’t ever share your birthday, age, or place of birth online. An identity thief can piece together your Social Security number based on this information.   

Know your friends. Thieves can pose as friends, colleagues, friends of friends, followers, or an attractive person wanting to know you better.  But are you sure they are who they say they are? If you are friends with a stranger or haven’t spoken to the connection in some time consider removing that person from your account. If you receive a connection or friend request from a stranger the safest thing to do is to reject the request.

Be cautious. Playing games online is a great way to pass time.  However, logging in with your social media account could provide another opportunity for your identity to be stolen.  Make sure you’re reading the privacy and security notices before joining the site. In addition, verify any emails you get from these sites, especially email that request password resets. Bogus emails from third parties posing as social media sites are often designed to gain access to your user name, password, and ultimately your personal information. When in doubt, don’t open it, download it, add it, or share it.

Act quickly. If you think your social media account has been compromised, report it to the site immediately and alert your contacts. Change your passwords, but proceed with caution because your computer security may have been affected. Malware, including key-logging software, may have been installed on your computer, so you’ll want to make sure your computer security is intact before logging on to any online bank account. Also, check your financial accounts for suspicious activity. Your financial institution should be able to work with you to ensure your accounts are secure.

The information you share on social media sites can be used for purposes other than what you intended.  Anytime you choose to engage with these sites you are taking certain risks. Common sense, caution, and skepticism are some of the strongest tools you have to protect yourself.

October 20th – 27th  is NFCC’s National Protect Your Identity Week. Apprisen and their partners will be hosting a variety of shredding events and workshops throughout communities. Check our events page  on our website for what’s happening in your area.

Jana Castanon is the Community Outreach Coordinator for Apprisen. Apprisen is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.




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