Most of us are guilty of telling the world personal information, such as our date of birth, or when and where we are traveling by posting vacation photos. This makes it much too easy for the bad guys.
Can you imagine giving strangers photos or personal information about your job, residence, financials or family — or telling a robber the best time to rob you? Stop imagining and let this be a wake-up call, because too many of us are enabling ID-theft criminals through social networking. Most of us are guilty of telling the world personal information, such as our date of birth, or when and where we are traveling by posting vacation photos, especially if those photos contain geographical information (geotagging).
This makes it much too easy for the bad guys, as this type of information enables ID-theft criminals to victimize us. For example, even something as innocuous as sharing a photo of your family in the park near your house could inadvertently lead a child predator to where your children live and play. Most of us are also guilty of accepting the “terms and conditions” or ignoring the “privacy settings” of social networks without reading and understanding the implications. I highly recommend that you and your family members read and understand the privacy settings of your favorite social-networking sites.
For example, as a LinkedIn member, I am guilty of not reading the terms and conditions. I was surprised when I read a May CNNMoney article titled “8 worst terms of service ever.” According to the article, “The company has permission to claim anything you share on the professional-networking service — even indirectly — and change it, share it or profit from it. … When asked about the clause, LinkedIn said it reserves those powers — but it doesn’t intend to use them.”
Sound scary? It’s not just LinkedIn. Every social-networking site has terms and conditions that might make you hesitate about which sites you choose to join and what types of personal or professional information you share. Criminals use a variety of sources, including social media, to steal our identities. While they may purchase, or hack, our Social Security number or credit-card information, they commonly look to social media for details such as our date of birth or address, as this type of information is commonly found there and can be used to open fraudulent accounts.
We need to be aware that posts, blogs, tweets and photo sharing create the equivalent of an electronic fingerprint — and that’s exactly what ID-theft criminals are looking for. We also need to be more careful about accepting professional connections and “friend” requests from individuals we do not know. While there is a temptation to connect professionally with someone that has a big title or to be friends with someone who knows everyone, the proliferation of fake LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts increases every day, so beware.
One of the purposes of fake accounts on social-networking sites is to gather data – our sensitive data. Fake profiles can help hackers and ID-theft criminals steal your information, such as e-mail addresses. To be clear, social networking is a good thing and allows us the opportunity to grow and maintain valued relationships. Just be aware of the risks.
Mark’s Most Important: Stop ignoring terms and conditions, read, understand and use privacy settings and be diligent about your social networking. Beware of fake accounts, unless you want to be a partner in your own identity theft.
Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., a national ID-theft and background-screening provider based in Phoenix. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published on AZcentral.com and republished with the author’s permission.