Even though computers and the Internet have changed our world, consumers need to be reminded that not everyone they come in contact with online is trustworthy.
The growth of social networking sites is undeniable. Facebook has reached more than 750 million active users worldwide. Forty percent of Facebook users are people under the age of 25.
There are many benefits to signing up for sites like Facebook. Social media sites allow you to do the obvious things such as keep in touch with your family and friends, or even find a new job. As much fun as this can be, users need to be aware of the potential risks associated with being too forthcoming on a public site.
When you innocently mention that you’re going to be out of town, that’s potentially telling the world that your house will be vacant. Even listing daily activities can let strangers know your routine and put you at risk. In other words, if you’re too revealing, you’re asking for trouble, as predators often cruise these sites hoping to steal your personal information for their gain. With just a few clicks of the mouse, they can learn a lot about you.
Consumers unwittingly make it very easy for someone to steal their identity online, as all someone needs is your name, date of birth, and a few other pieces of information that are usually readily available on your Facebook account, and they’re well on their way. Another reason that the thieves love gaining access to your personal information through social media sites is that it’s perfectly legal. Often doing a simple Internet search using a person’s name pulls up their Facebook account, and that can be Pandora’s Box for the crook.
What happens next? A recent State of the Net survey by Consumer Reports revealed that close to nine percent of social network users experienced some form of abuse, such as malware infections, scams, identity theft and harassment. If your identity is stolen, it can take 30 hours or more and hundreds of dollars to restore your good name and good credit. A Javelin Strategy and Research study found that People who have used social networking for five or more years are twice as likely as those newer to these sites to suffer identity fraud.
The NFCC recommends the following precautions to take when utilizing social networks:
- Be smart about what you reveal about yourself or your family. Less is better.
- Make sure everyone in the family understands what is acceptable to share online and what’s off-limits. Realize that information a youngster innocently provides on a social networking site can compromise the entire family.
- Be selective when you allow access to your site. Keeping your circle small, including only those that you personally know can safeguard you.
- Look at everything you post through the eyes of the crook. See if you could piece together who you are and where you live. Even clever screen names can often be decoded by a thief.
It’s much better to protect yourself against ID theft, than to pick up the pieces after being victimized.