Please note: This is an update to an article previously published by Equifax in July 2013.
An identity thief looks at social media the way a pickpocket looks at a crowded subway car: It’s the perfect place to target unsuspecting victims. Few people are vigilant, and personal information is readily available.
That may be particularly true for teens. A Pew Research Center study shows 71 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 use more than one social media site such as Facebook®, Instagram®, Twitter® and Snapchat®.
On social networking sites, users can, depending on their privacy settings, publicly share what experts consider “non-public personally identifiable information”— such as full names, dates and places of birth, and financial and employment information—that can be used to steal their identities.
Some of the easiest ways you can help secure your information are having strong privacy settings and only connecting with people you actually know. Don’t accept friend requests from strangers who could access information like your birth date, hometown, or family details, all of which could be used to apply for credit or to access banking information. Parents can review their teen’s privacy settings on social media and talk with them about these and other practices to help protect against identity theft:
– Don’t give clues. Avoid sharing information that could be the answer to a security question or password reminder prompt, such as your pet’s name, school mascot, or favorite book.
– Have strong passwords. Don’t choose something that could be easily found on social media, like names or birth dates. Also, don’t use the same password for your profile that you use for banking and other important matters—if one is compromised, they all could be.
– Beware of installing applications. You could be downloading dangerous software that will pick up personal information on your profile or computer.
– Check your settings. Facebook allows users to control who “friends” and “follows” them, as well as whether they appear in public search results. It also allows users to enable two-factor authentication, in which users enter a special security code or confirm login attempts before accessing Facebook, and set up alerts about unauthorized logins.
– Understand what information you share indirectly. By liking or sharing a photo or status, you could be revealing important information about yourself. Learn how to check the original poster’s privacy settings for a post before reacting to it.
– Talk to your children and teens about what to share on social media. Give them guidelines about what to share — and what needs to remain private. Advise them to keep their sensitive information to themselves, and help them come up with strong passwords to help better secure their information. You’ll know their information is more secure, and you’ll be able to keep better track of their activity.
Remember that information put on the internet can exist forever, even if you think you’ve deleted it. It’s easy for someone to copy information or take a screenshot. It’s important to consider the information you’re sharing before you do so.
Teach your children and teens to remain on alert and consider whether putting information online is worth the risk.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.