The social networking site Facebook has revolutionized the way people think and express their thoughts. Through status messages, photos, links and other forms of posts, people of all ages can now say what is on their mind. While this may be of some advantage, unfortunately, this also creates a way for thieves and criminals to gain access to computer systems and personal information.
Identitytheft on social networking sites such as Facebook has become rampant. The world’s greatest conman, Frank Abagnale who was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the Hollywood blockbuster Catch Me If You Can has issued a warning against those who use social networking sites. With nearly 40 years of experience as a conman turned security expert for the U.S. law enforcement agencies, Abagnale says “If you tell me your date of birth and where you’re born [on Facebook] I’m 98% [of the way] to stealing your identity. Never state your date of birth and where you were born [on personal profiles], otherwise you are saying ‘come and steal my identity’.”
He also adds never to use passport-like photos. Instead use group photos if possible. “What [people] say on a Facebook page stays with them,” he said. “Every time you say you ‘like’ or ‘don’t like’ something, you are telling someone [things like] your sexual orientation, ethnic background, voting record.”
Because stealing of information happens through such social networking sites, criminals can use this information to open lines of credit in your name. They can do the following: go on a shopping spree, take out a mortgage, or buy a car using credit cards in your name. They can also take out cash advances, and perform other illegal activities using your identity. I.D. theft can happen to you via your social media site and cause difficulties for you months and even years down the road.
With ID theft on social networking sites such as Facebook are bound to happen if you are not careful – and may eventually run the risk of ruining your credit. Here are some things you can do to counter these identity theft attacks.
Secure Your Personal Information
Facebook often asks for your personal information online such as your name, address, telephone number, date of birth, and even Social Security number and account numbers. Be wary of entering any of these into your computer as most people can actually view your personal information online. Facebook allows you to set your security settings so that you can control who sees your profile.
Don’t Post Revealing Photos
If you receive a new credit card in the mail, don’t take a picture of it and post it on Facebook as thieves and criminals can likely steal your personal account number and identification. In addition don’t ever take a picture of any kind of ID – student, driver’s license and social security.
There is one story of a person who, after visiting the grave of his mother, posted a photo of the tombstone on Facebook, giving would-be thieves the full name of his mother which is often used as a security measure by credit card companies and lenders. This is something you should never do- allowing criminals to know your mother’s maiden name.
Create Strong Passwords and Make Them Safe
Passwords can be difficult to remember especially when you need to have different passwords for every site that you go to. It is important to prevent ID Theft on social networking sites to create strong passwords.
A strong password is a combination of letters, special characters and numbers, one that a thief would have a hard time guessing. One of the strongest passwords is actually a mixture of both lower and upper class letters. Some experts in the field recommend putting in numbers in the middle of the password instead of at the beginning or at the end.
Keep in mind that in order to have a strong password, the longer it is, the harder it is for criminals to unearth. It should be at least eight characters long.
Finally even with all of these, use passwords that are easy to remember too – not just simply your date of birth or your daughter’s date of birth, or an old address. You should never use account numbers or your Social Security number.
Check Your Credit Report Often
It is important that you check your credit history regularly so that you will know if there are unusual and suspect activities on your credit reports. You can monitor your credit reports by ordering them from the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can order these once a year for free or better – sign up for periodic reports or credit monitoring.
*This is a guest article by Joy Mali*