3 Tips to Prevent Identity Theft on Social Networks

Photo (cc) by UofSLibrary

I recently had to track down the past decade’s worth of my alma mater’s student body presidents for an article I was writing at another publication. Some were still local, while others had moved on. But 90 percent of them had one thing in common: They participated in social networks, so they were easy to find.key to identity theft

Once you share your birthday on Facebook or brag about your employer on LinkedIn, I can use public records to track down everything from your home address to your home value. But instead of a journalist tracking you down for an interview, a thief could hijack your personal details to steal your identity.

“Friending someone online is not risk-free,” says Thomas Oscherwitz, chief privacy officer for ID Analytics. “Just as in the bricks-and-mortar world, it makes sense to exercise a bit of prudence. Most social networking profiles contain personal information that can be used by fraudsters, and when you friend someone, you are giving them access to this information.”

A recent study from ID Analytics, a company that analyzes identity risk, shows that we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable to such fraudsters via lax social networking habits…

  • Nearly 13 million 18-year-olds (and older) using social networking sites will accept any connection request from a member of the opposite sex – even if they don’t know that person.
  • Men are more than twice as likely as women to accept any and all invites from someone of the opposite sex (18 percent compared to 7 percent for women).
  • Five percent of U.S. adults will accept any friend request they receive – regardless of who sends them.

So how are social media butterflies supposed to protect themselves from e-thieves? It may seem obvious, but apparently it’s not…

  • There’s no prize for the Facebook profile with the most friends, so take a second to think about whether your next friend request is worth granting before you click. Friending a complete stranger, like picking up a hitch-hiker, has risks.
  • While you’re spring cleaning your home, don’t forget to dust off your cyber space. Scrutinize every detail you share on Facebook and then purge your profile of unnecessary personal data. Do you really need to list your email and phone number for every last “friend” to see? If they need to reach you, they can always send you a private Facebook message. And what about your birthday? Getting your Facebook wall spammed with impersonal well-wishes one day of the year isn’t worth risking identity theft – which often starts with a birth date.
  • When you’re done with your profile, scrutinize your privacy settings. Facebook’s settings are notoriously intimidating – as The New York Times illustrated last year – but step-by-step guides are available online. For example, The Huffington Post has a slideshow about the five most important settings, and the nonprofit Common Sense Media offers a video for parents whose children frequent social networks.

For more ways to protect yourself from identity theft, be sure to check out 6 Tips for Going Underground Online. If you’ve already insulated yourself, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
10 Things That Really Are Free on Amazon
10 Things That Really Are Free on Amazon

These freebies are available to anyone — no Prime membership necessary.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement
5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement

The path to your dream retirement begins with these five steps. How many have you already taken?

7 Reasons You Should Not Claim Social Security Early
7 Reasons You Should Not Claim Social Security Early

The sooner you claim your Social Security retirement benefits, the more you — and perhaps also your spouse — stand to lose. Here are the stakes.

Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security
Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security

Growing numbers of seniors are paying taxes on their Social Security benefits, but you might be able to avoid this fate.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

The 10 Worst States for Retirees in 2021
The 10 Worst States for Retirees in 2021

Based on factors like affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

8 Ways You Are Wrecking Your Major Appliances
8 Ways You Are Wrecking Your Major Appliances

Some appliance failures are beyond our control, but plenty are self-inflicted.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.