Social Media Identity Theft: An In-Depth Look

social media identity theft



Social Media Identity Theft: Your Profiles Facilitate Fraud More Than Ever

Social media can seem like it’s a mandatory part of life, but that wasn’t the case ten years ago. These days, there is a real and significant threat from the Internet: social media identity theft. Just think of this: only 37% of people change their Facebook privacy settings. That allows third-party apps to see everything on your profile essentially. Companies can take information from your social profiles. In some instances, this information is even used by creditors to make decisions.

Experian announced recently it would create a product called Extended View Score, where information can be collected if you don’t own a bank account and have a limited credit history. They would use public record data along with other information to create a credit score.



Beyond the potential that everyone from credit companies to employers might be accessing your social media profiles, you also have to consider that these are a prime target for cybercriminals. The following chapters are some of the most significant things to know about the risk your profiles pose regarding social media identity theft and similar threats.

The Risks

Social media identity theft has been an increasing problem because of how prevalent these platforms are in so many people’s lives. If you make even minor mistakes, or sometimes just have too much information displayed, it can be used by thieves and criminals.

Research has found that you’re 30% more likely to be affected by identity theft when you’re active on social media. The platforms that may pose the highest risk include Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. But there is more.

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There are different ways that social media identity theft can happen. For example, a scammer might create a fake profile using your name. Then, when they do that, they’ll populate the account with your photos they found online, and from there, they could start to reach out to real people that you know, including your friends and family, and ask for money or donations to some type of charity.

The scammer might send out a message saying that you’re struggling financially and you need help. If some of your connections from social media were to send money, then obviously, the scammer pockets the money.



A Big No-No: Same Password, Different Accounts

Another way your profiles can pave the way for social media identity theft is to use the same passwords on multiple accounts. If someone can access your password, they might then be able to use that same password to access your bank accounts or credit card accounts.

If you use third-party apps on social media, such as game-based apps, then you might be a target when you permit that app to access information on your device. Therefore, if you were to download an application that wasn’t legitimate, then you could be providing the scammer access to everything on your phone.

Social media can also put you at risk of being a victim in other ways outside of identity theft too. For example, if you’re sharing your vacation photos, local thieves will know you’re away.

If someone gets enough information about you via social media, they can also use that as part of a phishing attack.



Who’s Most at Risk?

Research tends to show that older people are most at risk of being victims of identity theft in general, including when it relates to social media. The elders might not have a lot of experience with social media or as much familiarity with technology, so it can be more challenging for them to spot red flags that something could be wrong.

With that in mind, seniors do have a few things that work to their advantage. For example, they’re less likely to put as much personal information on social media; something younger people are more likely to do.

What Can You Do?

You can do things to keep your information more private on social media, which is good not only from an identity theft standpoint but also in general.

People tend to overestimate how secure their social media settings are. If you haven’t checked your settings recently, the best thing you can do is start there. Social media platforms frequently change their protocols as far as security, so you need to stay ahead of it.



On Facebook, you can go to Settings and Privacy on the account. Then, you can start to limit who can see what. If you have Twitter, you should similarly consider changing your Tweets to private. Any platform where there’s the option to have your full name or birthdate, hide them or take them out.

One you might not think of that can be important is also hiding your Pinterest boards. You can make your boards “Secret” when you’re creating them, and you can also make this change on your existing boards. It’s much easier than you might think for a criminal to find out personal information about you if they can see what you share on Pinterest.



Check For Fake Profiles

Do a regular search for fake profiles that are set up to impersonate you and if you see one, let your connections know not to interact with the person on the other end of the profile in any way.

If you find a fake profile, you should go to IdentityTheft.gov to file a report. You also need to report what you’ve found to the virtual platform like Facebook or Instagram.

You ultimately have to think about whether or not your use of social media is really worth it. It does put your private information at risk, and whether or not you feel like that’s a tradeoff you’re willing to make is a decision that only you can make.

If you feel the social connection is worth it, always be aware of what you’re sharing, and regularly check and update your privacy settings. If you use any kind of third-party apps through social media, you should update those frequently and get rid of anything you no longer use.


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