Foresight Blog

Is Facebook Putting Your Identity At Risk?

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 11.15.48 AMIs Facebook Putting Your Identity At Risk?

While the “good guys” have been using Facebook and other social media channels to find criminals on the run, and uncover falsified information regarding one’s identity, the “bad guys” are also hard at work, leveraging the platform to steal the identity of an unsuspecting, overly-social victim.

The question is, are you at risk while using Facebook and other social media platforms?

The answer, as you might expect, is that “it depends”. As a general rule of thumb, the more that you share online about yourself, the more that you could be at risk. And the way social networks are designed, they will only become more risky as time goes by.

Social networks like Facebook depend on knowing as much they can about you, the user. Why? Because the more information that you disclose, the better it allows advertisers to target you with marketing messages. This is how Facebook makes money. This is why you continue to see more prompts on your profile to “fill in” the gaps.

Where do you work? What’s your birthday? Who are your relatives on Facebook?

The more you answer these questions, the more your are at risk.

Scammers and identity thieves are professional puzzle-solvers. They take small, disparate pieces of information about an individual to unlock more, until they’ve reconstructed the core details of your identity.

For example, you might have listed your personal email address on your Facebook profile so that people can contact you in a different way. You’ve also listed your favorite pet’s name, where you went to high school, and of course, your Mom is a friend on Facebook, so her maiden name is listed there too.

Now, all a scammer has to do is type in your email address and click “I forgot my password”. But wait, isn’t there a secret question that needs to be answered before a password can be changed?

That’s correct, and your profile has made it very easy for anyone to answer the question.

Once your email account is compromised, it doesn’t take long until bank transaction confirmations, phone records and other common online receipts are discovered by a dubious identity thief.

You will never be completely immune from the attacks that can originate on social media, after all, you can’t control what your friends divulge about your personal life online. But here are a few tips to keep in mind as you socialize on the internet.

1. Know your privacy settings

Make sure that you know what type of information is made public, and what is only shared with friends. Check it regularly, because privacy settings change.

2. Only give the bare minimum for your profile information

Your friends already know where you went to school, and they probably don’t care about what your dog’s name is. Less is more when it comes to creating a profile that is risk-averse.

3. Think the worst, hope for the best

When you are about to post something online, think about the worst case scenario – what if anyone could read this, including an identity thief? We can all benefit from filtering a little bit of what we express online, but it can also save you from exposing sensitive information to the wrong people.