Wow! You Won’t Believe...

...How Clickbait Can Put Your Identity At Risk!

The 29 Prom Dresses Revealed Way Too Much!”

“Dad Came Home from Overseas, What His Wife Did Stopped Him in his Tracks!”

“Friends Say It’s Over for this Celebrity Couple!”

Headlines like those float past your social media feed and flood your inbox on a daily basis, and by now you might have even gotten used to them. For many people, though, clickbait is the scourge of the internet, and for a variety of different reasons.

Clickbait is a term for any post or article that is designed to get you to click. It might be a quiz (“How high is your IQ?” or “Which type of pizza are you?”), a puzzle (“Only 3% of Americans can solve this math problem!”), or a gallery-style article with dozens of different pages for you to click through. There are a few ways that clickbait serves its creators purpose:

1. Advertising

Every time you click “next page” to see another outrageous wedding dress or celebrity wardrobe malfunction, you’re giving the creator of that post advertising. The ads on the sidebar of every single page count as a “page view,” so the original poster gets 30 page views’ worth of revenue from those companies for every single person who looks at 30 different dresses. That’s why you can’t just scroll down and see all the images in a single post, but have to click through instead. This is annoying but harmless.

2. Malicious data theft

On the other hand, some of the clickbait is designed to steal access to your social media account. The permissions you’re giving when you click may or may not be outlined in the terms and conditions. Some users have reported having other posts from that website appear on their timelines, or even having their friends tell them they received strange posts, messages, or duplicate friend requests from them.

Unfortunately, you can’t know the creator’s goal until after you’ve clicked, but you can be careful of what you engage with online. Hover your mouse over any link before you click it, and avoid it if you’re unfamiliar with the website. If you have to agree to terms and conditions just to read an article, there’s a good chance there’s something in there that can harm you. If you’re required to let the company post on your behalf on Facebook or other sites, you might not be interested in their article after all.

Finally, if you’ve already fallen for click bait and it’s tied to your social media account, you can go into the settings and revoke permission. However, you’ll have to do this for every website that has gained authorization on your accounts.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Read next: You're Just One Click Away from Online Safety With These Helpful Tips

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