Identity Theft and Social Media: Five Things to Avoid

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Social media is everywhere in today’s world. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter are just a few of the many ways we connect online. While a web presence may be fun and even useful, it’s also a breeding ground for identity theft. The recent Heartbleed Bug illustrated our vulnerabilities on a global scale, causing many to reevaluate their safety on the internet. Take your initiative a step further by avoiding the following actions. Don’t post your:

1. Address, phone number, and driver’s license. Here’s a common scenario: Chelsea recently moved across the country to begin her career in finance. She’s excited to share the details with her friends on Facebook and Instagram. Without thinking, she posts a few photos with the following message:

“I finally made it to my awesome apartment on Riverside Drive in NYC! Can’t wait to for everyone to visit. In the meantime, my new city girl phone # is (917) 555-4372. Check out my new NY driver’s license too. Xoxo”

Chelsea’s enthusiasm is her downfall in this case. Sharing too much has exposed her address, phone number, birthday, state ID number, and other information listed on her driver’s license. In the hands of an identity thief, this abundance of information will lead to big problems for Chelsea.

2. Social plans or vacations. Unless you plan to post a sign that reads, “I’m not home. Please rob me,” on your front door, keep your vacation plans away from social media. The average person does not know every online contact intimately, and providing a detailed description of your weekend plans could lead to a break-in. Losing your stuff is traumatic, but losing your computer, passwords and account numbers is devastating. Prioritize credit safety by practicing discretion. If you must, post your getaway photos after you come home.

3. Kids’ names and school information. You may think your children are safe from identity theft. How can someone ruin the credit of your three-year-old, right? Wrong. Your child’s Social Security Number can be used by identity thieves to open bank accounts and apply for new credit, leading to a long and stressful credit repair process. Review the Federal Trade Commission’s advice on this subject. In the meantime, protect your child’s identity as you would protect your own. Don’t be too specific about their legal identifiers or school information.

4. Banking information. While you wouldn’t post your bank account number on Facebook, a simple comment could lead to the same identity theft dangers. For example, Stella is looking for a new bank. She asks her friends on Facebook for a recommendation. “Go to the Chase branch on Mulvey Drive,” Jaime replies. “I’ve been banking there for 12 years.” Jaime’s innocent statement may have piqued the interest of an online identity thief. Jaime’s name and address are readily available for those who know where to look, and now her banking habits have been exposed. Take a lesson from her carelessness and limit what you share. Save banking recommendations for in-person conversations. 

5. Income information. No one likes a show-off, and that’s exactly what you’re doing by sharing your salary online. While you may be proud of your financial accomplishments, this obnoxious method of oversharing could cost you in the long run. A skilled hacker will find weaknesses to exploit in your online checking account, employee health savings account, 401(k) and more. Don’t publicize your good fortune—the result may swing the odds against you.

Posted in Identity Theft
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