Do you have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat account? If so, you’re among the 4.74 billion social media users around the world as of October 2022. Social media is an appealing way to stay in touch with family and friends and share pictures easily in real time. Facebook is the most widely used social media platform claiming 2.9 million monthly active users1. Many people share everything about themselves on social media, which means unfortunately, that social media platforms have become feasting grounds for identity thieves.2
What is Social Media Identity theft?
Criminals use social media sites to steal your personally identifiable information or trick you into giving up access to your accounts. If scammers can gain enough of your personally identifiable information, they can take over your accounts and impersonate you on social media or even access your financial accounts.
Your Posts can be Phish Bait
Phishing is when scammers send you emails, texts, calls, or social media messages with the goal of stealing your personal information or infecting your devices with malware. Scammers will often send you an enticing message which usually includes a harmful link. If you click the link it takes you to a fake login portal that either steals your password or downloads malware onto your device. Never click on suspicious links especially if you don’t know who the message is from.
10 Tips To Avoid Social Media Identity Theft
- Tighten up your privacy settings and control who can view your profile. This includes data such as birthday, location, phone number, email address etc. If you aren’t sure about how much of your personal information is public, review your privacy settings under account settings on each of your social media platforms.
- Use unique passwords and usernames for each social media account. Your password is your first line of defense against hackers. Choose strong passwords or phrases with at least eight characters and a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. The more random the better and be sure your passwords don’t contain birthdates or other personal information.
- Deactivate or delete social media profiles that you no longer use. These accounts are vulnerable because you are not actively managing them.
- Turn off automatic location tagging and don’t tag locations in your posts. Doing so can make it easier for a hacker to know where you live. Criminals only need your name and home address to attempt to change your address and reroute your mail to their address.
- Skip online quizzes and surveys. These seem like innocent fun, but they are regularly used by criminals to steal personal data and crack security questions.
- Research charities and crowdfunding campaigns. You can check to see if a charity is legitimate using charitynavigator.org. If it’s a GoFundMe or similar, research the people behind it. Depending on how you donate, scammers may be able to gain access to your financial details.
- Use a password manager. With so many passwords to remember it’s no surprise that many people reuse the same password for multiple accounts. A password manager securely stores all your logins and passwords so that you can easily access them when needed. Password managers don’t recognize fake sign-on sites, so they also help ensure that you’re only entering sensitive information on legitimate sites.
- Don’t connect social media accounts to third-party apps. It may be convenient to log on to social media accounts with Facebook or your Apple ID, but you should keep these separate. The more platforms that “know” your unique login, the more you risk exposing multiple passwords during a data breach.
- Regularly check recent sign-ins and force unfamiliar devices to sign out. You can view any active logins on most social media sites. Some sites allow you to set up alerts if an unrecognized device is used to log in. That could be a big red flag that you’ve been hacked. Force all sessions to sign out. You’ll have to log in again later, but it’s worth it.
- Monitor your credit and online accounts for signs of fraud and review your credit report for suspicious activity. You can request a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion at annualcreditreport.com.
Following these safety tips can help you keep up with family and friends without sacrificing your privacy or security. Protecting your privacy is important to us at Baltimore County Employees Federal Credit Union. Click here, to watch short videos on all our digital services and the options available to help safeguard your accounts when using them.
1 Social Media Statistics Datareportal.com
2 How to Avoid Social Media Identity Theft, by Jory MacKay (cybersecurity writer/editor) 8-18-2022