Social media sites seem to be harmless – millions of users reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, posting pictures from the latest vacation or even sending mass messages about a current activity.
Each year millions of Americans are victimized by identity theft (8.1 million in 2010). Sites divulging any amount of personal information can give thieves the opportunity to steal your identity or phish for enough information to commit a crime. The personal information shared on sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter can pose a substantial threat to your identity. Some easy ways to protect yourself include:
- Protect your personal information online – never give out personal information on the web, regardless of who is asking for it.
- Change privacy settings – many of these sites allow you to manage how much information different categories of users can see (i.e. “Friends” versus “Friends of Friends” versus “My Networks”). You should minimize the amount of information available to other users.
- Create profiles on major social media sites to prevent others from being able to impersonate you (called Cyber Sitting) – websites such as www.knowem.com offer a quick and free way to check availability of your name on over 120 social media sites.
- Examine privacy policies of social networking sites – this growing trend is also an increasing threat; ask social networking sites to provide identity monitoring to users.