Prepare to hit the thumbs-down button; online thieves like when you share things about yourself on social media. Of course, they do! Everyone knows not to give out their social security number or driver’s license number, but most people don’t consider how small disclosures of personal information on social media can be used by imposters and thieves. Each little tidbit shared can be used to crack passwords and answer secret questions, or used by imposters to gain trust that they are, in fact, you.
Once upon a time, in the not-too-distant-past, we couldn’t just “look somebody up.” Our birthdays, political opinions and Tuesday night dinner fare were not broadcast to the world, indexed, and accessible at any time. This is a new societal phenomenon; less than twenty years old. Criminals know that we haven’t quite caught up with the security issues, so they exploit them at every possible turn.
In 2019 alone, 1 in 20 Americans experienced some form of identity theft or identity fraud. While other types of fraud declined, account takeover fraud (where someone hijacks and drains an account) is growing: up 72% over 2018 with a new record of $6.8 billion in 2019. Numbers from 2020 won’t be tabulated until Spring, but experts agree that the coronavirus pandemic, increases in online shopping, and shifting market dynamics created something of a perfect storm for identity thieves. Card-not-present fraud, phishing schemes, scams, and account takeover fraud are all expected to show increases during the pandemic.
In addition to the above-listed forms of identity theft, the other way social media puts individuals at risk is imposter accounts. This is when someone uses your image, name, and friends-list to create a duplicate account posing as you. Sometimes the end-game is the creation of a fake charity which they market to your friends. Other times they hit up friends and relatives for loans or emergency funds. Fake profiles can also be created by a work-related enemy, scorned lover, or angry neighbor who wishes to destroy the person’s reputation. These are all quite common.
In order to keep yourself safe from crimes of identity theft, use the following tips:
- Check your credit report often.
- Google yourself regularly.
- Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
- Use a random password generator to create novel passwords.
- Change your passwords quarterly.
- Use unrelated passwords for answers to your secret questions.
- Monitor credit card statements monthly.
- Use security and privacy features on social media accounts.
- Don’t allow people you don’t know into your circle of online “friends”.
- Don’t share lists of favorites, pictures of license plates, or any other information that could be used to hack or impersonate you.
- Be skeptical of any message asking you for money or donations.
Even the most heightened vigilance and monitoring is not going to stop every instance of identity theft. Federal authorities report that most of these crimes happen very quickly – within 24 hours of the data breach or stolen password.
If you or someone you know is struggling to pick up the pieces from the fallout of identity theft, get help from professionals. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman are experienced in these matters. We help each client retaliate against thieves, repair their credit rating, and restore their reputation. Contact us today.