Social Networks

More than half of United States adults actively use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and identity thieves are discovering the potential for financial gain by incorporating pieces of the everyday information users readily make available on these sites.

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More than half of United States adults actively use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and identity thieves are discovering the potential for financial gain by incorporating pieces of the everyday information users readily make available on these sites.

The information isn’t difficult to get, either. According to a 2012 study by Javelin Strategy & Research, over 30% of social network users post their birth date, and 47% share their email address and another 12% their phone number.1

By combining this information with seemingly everyday facts like birthplace, school names, locations and pet names, a smart identity thief can piece together a pretty hefty victim profile. Some of these crooks are real pros.

More social network members creates more opportunity.

With the tremendous growth of social networking, thieves are developing new approaches. They’ll try to “friend” the target and gain more access to their lives and personal information. Another method is called “clickjacking.” Thieves create malicious news and information pages where the function of a button is not what it seems. As viewers “like” and share the page with other friends, more and more victims are collected.

Spam, phishing and malware on social sites are also growing. These attacks go beyond targeting an individual’s online profile and information. They aim to obtain access to the personal and financial information that is stored on the person’s computer, including passwords, login identities, banking data and other highly sensitive information.

Safeguard yourself from friends who really aren’t.

There are ways you can protect yourself from those who pretend to be friends. First of all, consider all information, no matter how harmless it may seem, as a potential advantage for identity thieves. Use the privacy settings each social site provides to limit the amount and exposure of your personal information. Don’t post birth dates, children’s or pet’s names, phone numbers or other specific data. Know and manage your online friends and be wary of strangers. Once they become “friends” you could inadvertently become their friendly banker.

1 Javelin Strategy & Research. “2012 Identity Fraud Survey Report.” 2/12.

FTC. “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book For January – December 2011.” February 2012.

Javelin Strategy & Research. "2012 Identity Fraud Report."