How to Protect Your Identity and Information When Using Social Media

Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… with the ever-increasing popularity of social media, it will come as no surprise that online identity theft and fraud is on the rise. According to the Pew Research Center, 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone and its safe to say most have experienced fraud, scams or identity theft while using their phones.

Most of us are savvy about our offline security; for example, using a secure shredding service to destroy confidential documents and never giving out our bank details over the phone. This is not always the case when it comes to online identity theft. Here are some items to remember when using your phone for social media and applications.

Never save your password

A survey by Verizon DBIR report showed that almost a fifth of mobile device users have clicked ‘remember me’ when logging onto a site for the first time. But by checking this box on a public, work or laptop computer you are potentially exposing yourself to identity theft if someone else visits the website after you. Remember, most social media websites like Facebook will automatically tick this box, so make a note to uncheck it every time you sign in on a vulnerable device.

Do not give out personal information

It is amazing how little information thieves need from you in order to steal your identity. And once they get hold of it that person can open bank accounts, get credit cards, loans, and even claim state benefits in your name. So, whilst putting your address, telephone number and birth date on your social media account may seem harmless, when combined with your full name you become a scammer’s dream.

Be aware of your privacy settings

Don’t just accept. Privacy settings are there to be used, but a massive 10% of mobile device users admit that anyone could view their social media account online. Unless you make your profile private, you are giving scammers an open invitation to your personal information as well as putting your professional reputation at risk – do you really want potential employers to see you drunk at that party last weekend?

Set your social media accounts to private and ensure that you have full control of anything that is posted on your page to help stay secure online.

Don’t accept requests from strangers

A massive one in six peopled surveyed by Experian have accepted a friend request from someone they don’t know, opening their details up to potential scammers. Many thieves create social media accounts simply to steal personal information, so that seemingly innocuous friend request could be a disguise for identity fraud. Be careful about who you accept as friends, and regularly go through your contact list and remove people who you are no longer in touch with.

Use complicated passwords

We are all guilty of using the same password for a number of different accounts- it is just too much effort remembering different ones, right? Well, we can guarantee that it would be a lot more hassle having your social media account hacked into and your identity stolen.

To combat the risk, create complicated passwords which combine capital letters and numbers and change them every 1 to 3 months. Rather than remembering them all yourself, download a password manager app for your phone that will store them securely for you.

Make use of your security question

Most social media sites require you to choose a security question in case you forget your password. But scammers are also becoming adept at overcoming this barrier too, particularly if you choose an answer that could be easily found out, like the city in which you were born or what university you went to. Reduce the chances of your account being hacked by making up answers to your security questions and store them securely in a password manager.

Just to recap…

With identity fraud on the rise, it makes sense to take as many steps as possible to protect your social media accounts from potential scammers. And don’t forget to replicate your newfound vigilance offline too by using a secure shredding service for your confidential documents. By taking care of your online and offline identity, you can prevent financial loss, reputation and put it towards something much more valuable.

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