There are a lot of risks to be considered when posting content on different social media sites. Voluntarily sharing personal information through social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+ exposes users to identity theft that may cost significant time and money to recover. This identity theft could be through directly deceiving users on these sites, or through a large-scale data breach where hackers steal information from large quantities of users through flaws in the social media platform. Let’s dive into why posting on social media has risks, and how you can avoid identity theft through posting content.
Why is this a serious problem?
A variety of factors have caused posting on social media to become a pathway to identity theft and fraud. These factors include:
- Consumers aren’t knowledgeable about protecting their online identity
- Excessive trust or comfort posting personal content on social media sites
- Growing need for revenue streams for social media sites
- Lack of guidelines, policies, and standards for social media website operations.
Even though the public has become increasingly aware of identity theft, the issue on social media is not addressed enough.
How social media sites misuse information
There are a lot of ways for hackers and thieves to utilize the content you post on social media to your advantage. It’s important that users are aware of the ways different kinds of posts or content are utilized.
- If a user updates their status to on vacation or out of town (especially with family), a thief may seize the opportunity to rob your house or vehicle.
- When a user posts videos, photos, interests, and hobbies on social media sites, this can be used by cybercriminals to create a false profile in your name, that can be used to solicit assistance from financial institutions and more.
- Cybercriminals create fake profiles based on real people such as employers or recruiters and offer job opportunities to other users. These scammers gain user trust, then lure them into a link that steals information.
- Simple dangerous links designed to look like legitimate posts can deceive users into clicking, resulting in malicious software stealing their information.
The more information about yourself you post online, the more at-risk you are to be imitated by a thief, and left to pay the bill.
How to avoid being scammed
There are ways to enjoy social media platforms safely and reduce the risk of being scammed.
Here are a few tips on how to navigate social media in a safer manner.
- NEVER provide sensitive identification information on social media (driver’s license #, social security number, etc.)
- If applicable, use a nickname on social media accounts or a fake birthday. Limit the amount of personal information that is displayed publicly (hometown, high school, alma mater, etc.)
- Only accept invitations to connect or ‘friend’ with people you know or have sufficient information about. Don’t accept friend requests from strangers or suspicious profiles.
- Monitor your credit and google your name regularly to see if there are any malicious or false accounts posing as you.
- Avoid downloading content you can’t verify to be from a safe or legitimate source.
Social media is a powerful tool: for professional connections, content consumption, and connecting with friends and loved ones, it can be extremely useful. However, cybercriminals are always seeking new opportunities to profit from your online presence, so it’s important you use these sites safely and intelligently.