Social media sites are quick and fun ways to keep in contact with family and friends. But we may share too much.
Profile pages can be one-stop phishing grounds for identity thieves because they may list many personal details such as:
Your full name, including middle names and maiden names.
Your date of birth.
Your hometown, which may be your birth place.
Your relationship status (think joint banking accounts).
The places where you went to school and graduation dates (helps calculate your birth year).
Your pet names.
Your affiliations, interests and hobbies.
Now consider the security questions many online websites use to help you recover a forgotten password. A crafty identity thief could scour unprotected social network profiles collecting this information, with the intention of gaining access to bank and credit card accounts.
This doesn’t mean that you have to become a self-imposed, online social pariah to protect your identity. Here are some steps to take instead:
• Change your passwords regularly.
• Don’t give your email or social network username and password to a third party.
• Limit your personal information on your profiles, especially your date of birth, hometown, address, graduation year, and primary email address.
• Only invite people to your network that you know.
Privacy settings can be cumbersome and confusing for some social media sites, but don’t let that stop you from making identity protection part of your routine. Also, get in the habit of monitoring your credit using your free annual credit report.
If you have more questions about identity theft and how to prevent it, contact your local BBB at 509-455-4200 or online at www.bbb.org. You can also find information about privacy and your identity at the Federal Trade Commission’s website www.consumer.ftc.gov.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor