Is Facebook setting you up for identity theft?
Social media sites like Facebook and YouTube provide a gold mine for bad guys. When you post your birthday or download free apps, you may be setting yourself up for identity theft.
How many friends do you have on Facebook? Now, how many of those friends do you actually know from personal or professional interactions in your past?Skip to next paragraph
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How many had you never met before you accepted a friend request that was based on six mutual acquaintances? After all, who doesn't want to be like Norm on "Cheers," where everybody shouts your name and is your friend?
Social media has changed the way we interact with people, creating easy opportunities to re-connect with old friends and to be introduced to potential new ones. You can always find someone who shares your passion, no matter how unusual or bizarre.
But social media lulls users into revealing more than we should, or perhaps more than we want to, to people who really are mostly strangers.
While the vast majority of social media users are good people, all of that information and those interactions with unknown "friends" put users at serious risk.
Another piece of the puzzle
"Each piece of personally identifiable information that we provide gives thieves the missing piece of our profile mosaic," explained Kelly Santos, public relations manager with Identity Theft 911 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"Something seemingly innocent, like posting our birthday on Facebook, can provide thieves with just enough information to access bank accounts, credit cards, sign up for credit and more."
You also give away a few more pieces of the identity puzzle by sharing whom or what you "like" or "follow."
When you like a particular store or your neighborhood bank, for instance, you are giving a potential thief one more link to steal your information.
Hackers utilize the following distribution "touch points" to deceive users: malicious links and code, spam, friend requests, private messaging, user groups, gaming forums, videos and music.
"People will download just about any type of application without thinking twice about the security risks associated with it. Sometimes they download more than they bargained for," Waller said.
"Last March, Google removed over 60 [mobile] applications which had embedded malicious software in them," Waller said. "Some of the malware was designed to reveal the user's private information, replicate itself on other devices, destroy user data or even impersonate the device owner."
Often, such malware is loading keylogging software onto your computer that allows the thief to "read" your login usernames and passwords for all of your accounts.