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5 Steps to Protect Your Identity on Facebook

Check your Facebook timeline. Chances are that with very little scrolling you can find examples of over sharing by your friends and family. Not just embarrassing photos and personal details that no one should hear, but information that can lead to identity theft.

On my own timeline over the last month I’ve seen these posts:

“First tab signed as a (last name redacted)!”—Post by a newlywed, along with a photo of her signature on a restaurant receipt. She tagged the restaurant, which was out of state.

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“Homeowners again!” “Congratulations!! Where is it?” “It's in Marana in the San Lucas neighborhood.”

“Getting our nerd on at the Phoenix Comicon.” – Posted by a Colorado resident.

As travel season has heated up, no less than a dozen Facebook friends have posted photos from their out-of-state or foreign destinations. Wow — how about a roadmap to your home and an invitation to steal everything inside, including all of your files containing credit card information, bank statements, mortgage information, etc. Get the idea? Yikes!

But Facebook isn’t just a place to keep up with friends, family, and old classmates and co-workers; it’s also a prime target for criminals. Earlier this year, the Identity Theft Resource Center posed the question “Where else can identity thieves go to potentially gain access to 1 billion user identities?”

Here are 5 steps that you can take to protect your identity on Facebook:

1. Use the highest security settings — Lock down your information so that only friends can see it. Facebook has probably changed privacy options since you joined. If you haven’t checked your security settings in the past month, look at them now. Opt for “Friends Only” wherever possible.

2. Don’t participate in quizzes — This may seem like a fun, innocuous way to spend time but someone went to the trouble of creating the quiz. What do they plan to do with the information that you provide? Has a quiz ever asked for your favorite movie? This same information may also be a security question to gain access to your credit card, bank account, etc. Even if the originator of the quiz harbored no malicious intent, identity thieves using bots to troll for information can scoop up that nugget and match it with other information gleaned about you.

3. Don’t download apps for use on your profile — Most of us are savvy about not clicking on files or links in email because of the potential for malware. The same holds true on social media. Don’t download apps or click on links on Facebook, even those added by friends.

4. Be wise about what you post — Don’t share vacation plans or photos until your return. Tell travel companions that you don’t want to be tagged in photos until your trip is over. Don’t show your signature or address. And be cautious about sharing too much about your children, such as where they attend school.

5. Remove your birthdate — This is a vital piece of information needed for identity theft. It’s fun to get birthday greetings on your Facebook page, but at least remove the year of your birth. True friends know how old you are.

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