ID Theft Resources

Could millennials’ Instagram pictures of their pets lead to identity theft?

Written by Natasha Greenblatt for Symantec

Potentially. Like, if you use your pet’s name as a password.

Instagram is a place for sharing pieces of your life with your friends, in the form of pictures. This makes Instagram a platform full of posts that include users’ birthdays, family-member names, and — yes — pet names. This can be pure gold for fraudsters.

Who may be most at risk? People under 25. That includes many millennials — people born between 1981 and 1986 — and members of Gen Z, the generation born 1997 to now. Here’s why.

Mixing pets and passwords

Spanish-bank Santander conducted research on this topic and found nearly 90 percent of people under 25 said they shared personal information on social media. Ten percent of this group also admitted to disclosing their pet’s name on Instagram while also using that name as a password.

People love to share pictures of their furry best friends on Instagram, but it may be in your best interest to leave out pet’s names in your posts. While it might be tempting to wish Fido or Fluffy “happy birthday” in an Instagram square, this could lead to unwanted attention.

Instagram oversharing trend

A precarious “oversharing” trend has taken over Instagram, and Santander claims celebrities are the trendsetters.

Celebrities make up a quarter of the accounts followed by users under the age of 25 on Instagram. Their influence is apparent. Santander found among young adults 18 to 24 years old, a third of these users posted on Instagram something that was directly inspired by a celebrity’s post.

Celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and Lady Gaga have created Instagram accounts solely for their canine companions, and Taylor Swift often posts on Instagram pictures of her cats, along with their names.

While celebrities posting about their pets is not a crime, Santander’s research shows there may be a correlation between what celebrities post and what users between the ages of 18-24 are posting.

It’s not unusual for Instagram users to follow in celebrities’ footsteps. Unfortunately, this trend could allow fraudsters to gather personal information to build profiles for identity theft.

A top tip for keeping information hidden

One of the best ways to help keep your personal information safe on Instagram and many other social media platforms is to set your account to private. Only people you allow to follow you will be able to view your posts and information within those posts.

Private or not, it’s smart to be cautious about what personal information you reveal on social media.

Your adorable pet may be the light of your life, but don’t let one Instagram post of Fluffy or Fido increase the risk of identity theft.

Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.

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