Social media platforms are a great place to share our experiences and interests, as well as communicate and coordinate events. Unfortunately, they are also a potential gold mine for identity thieves.
“But I don’t post anything with sensitive information…”
Many of us already know better than to post content containing any personal, hard data. Hard data is information you would use to fill out any sort of official application or form: Social Security Number, account or card information, insurance information, home address, phone number, etc. This information can easily be used by an identity thief to open accounts or services in your name without your knowledge or permission.
However, identity thieves are not only trying to get hard data. Soft data is information that is specific to your life that better defines you as an individual. Things like your hobbies, passions, favorite vacation spot, street you grew up on, childhood pet’s name, and first best friend… coincidentally, the same information we use to answer many security verification questions. Identity thieves can use this soft data not only to answer those questions, but to better impersonate you if they have to interact with another person while using your identity to commit fraud.
“If I’m supposed to protect soft data, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of social media to begin with?”
It might seem that way, but fear not.
You can still share the moments and things that are personal and important to you, it’s more of a matter of who you allow to see that content. If you want to be able to post anything freely without fear of it being used to steal your identity, it all comes down to your privacy settings. Making your profile private and inaccessible to the public, and requiring friends, followers, and connections to request your permission to see your profile is one of the best practices to keep your information as safe as possible.
If you are using social media platforms to build your own brand, you are likely striving for higher visibility to attract more followers, and probably have a public profile. If this is the case, you will want to review each post carefully to make sure that it doesn’t contain any information you wouldn’t be willing to give a stranger.
“What if I don’t know the person requesting access to my profile, but we have a mutual connection?”
Identity thieves can also use mutual connections to their advantage. Not everyone is careful about who they give access to when it comes to social media. Identity thieves can pick and choose victims from the list of followers or friends of public profiles.
The best course of action if you receive a request from a stranger with a mutual friend?
Contact the person whose profile you have a connection to, and ask if they know the person requesting access to your profile. If you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t really know our mutual friend that well” or, “I haven’t talked to them in years… it might be weird to hit them up out of the blue,” then maybe it would be wiser to deny the request to see your profile. With social media security, it’s better to be safe than sorry.