Identity Theft and Social Media

The issue of identity theft is no longer limited to a few stray cases but has become a rampant problem, affecting millions of online users annually.  Internet technology isn’t the only thing that’s becoming more innovative with each passing day; hackers are also coming up with new methods to steal your identity.

This has made it tougher to shield yourself against cybercrime, while the safety of your personal information hangs in the balance. It is surprising how even the most vigilant of users slip up. For example, nobody would supply their private details to a total stranger, but that is precisely what people are doing every time they sign up for a social networking site.

Dangers of Insufficient Security

Social media websites use personal details for targeted advertising to gain revenue. This is exactly the reason why registered users are encouraged to provide as much information as possible. Unfortunately, inadequate identity and privacy protection, limited government oversight, and almost zero industry incentives or standards to educate visitors on security – the combination of all three factors exposes users to identity fraud and theft. Moreover, social media platforms have lots of confidential user details, and they are at a risk from both internal and external attacks.

Hackers – Strike Hard, Strike Fast

Social media usage has increased exponentially throughout the world, and there are more opportunities than ever before to perpetrate online fraud and steal people’s identities. User status updates are a way for criminals to learn about you, your family and friends, and track your movements. For example, if you mention that you’re away for the weekend, you might’ve inadvertently set yourself up for burglary.

While some personal information, like your driver’s license and your social security number, should never be shared, a lot of social media sites ask for, if not require other sensitive details that might land you in trouble later on. Some of the riskiest profile elements include your full name, your DOB, hometown, relationship status, date of birth, your pet’s name, graduation dates, etc.

Phish Attack

You might be wondering how “insignificant” details like the name of your pet and the year of your high school graduation could possibly be used to commit fraud. One word – phishing! Your information is often used by phishing attempts to gain trust so that it becomes easier to access non-public details through online chats. Moreover, GPS enabled smartphones that share your location may disclose sensitive information such as your home and work address, and the places you visit. Many social media profiles contain at least one application that hasn’t been reviewed and has the potential for abuse. Your personal information might be used to create a false profile and resume defamation of character or fraud.

A Way Out

Before you start canceling your social media accounts, know that there are smarter ways to deal with this problem. Be careful about what you share and who you share it with. Always choose unique passwords and usernames, and don’t discuss them with third parties. Never make your details public. You should never accept invites from unknown users, and invite only those into your network that you know. Always be careful of what and where you post; it could be used against you later. However, despite your best efforts, if your personal details do get compromised, there are certain services available for identity theft protection that can help you recover from the situation.

Swearing off social media isn’t really an option anymore as we all need to stay connected in this day and age. For this reason, consumers must familiarize themselves with correct social media usage as it involves the protection of their security and privacy. You should always exercise caution when it comes to how much information you share on your accounts. Gaining control over how these details are used will afford you some protection against fraud and identity theft.


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Smith Willas
Smith Willas is a freelance writer, blogger, and digital media journalist. He hold a bachelor’s degree from Florida University and his areas of interest are health and fitness, marketing, latest technologies, travel ideas, mobile tech, politics, and world news.