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Social media use can increase identity theft risk

Oct 12, 2013 Dave King

Social media use can increase identity theft risk

Social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter have surged in popularity during the past couple of years. As a result, consumers are sharing more information than ever before, which could be putting them at risk of identity theft.

"All the different places that young people communicate, they make themselves vulnerable to those that are professionals in finding out about people and using it," Kathleen Winn, director of the Community Outreach & Education Division in the Arizona Attorney General's Office, told the Maricopa Monitor.

After personal information is compromised, criminals generally attempt to take out loans or open lines of credit, which is why financial institutions like short term lenders need to be one of the first lines of defense against this type of crime. Strong ID verification procedures should be implemented, and employees need to be informed to tell clients about possible preventive tips, including:

- Don't share personal information: According to Business News Daily, one of the best strategies people can use to avoid identity theft on social media is to keep certain information private. For example, many users share their full birth dates, high school name, phone number and pet's name - all data that can be used to steal an identity. Facebook and Twitter give people the option of including this information, but it is best to omit it from social media pages.

- Use strict privacy settings: Social media channels offer privacy settings, so users need to be sure they are utilizing them properly. There is no reason why someone who isn't a friend should be able to access the page, which is why people need to make sure this information is private until a friend request is accepted. By having lenient privacy settings, there is a much greater risk of personal information being compromised.

- Avoid tagging your location: When using Facebook or Twitter, people have the ability to tag their location with every post. Users may want to let their friends know where they are, but this information is better shared via text message, as posting it on social media allows everyone to know that they aren't at home. Therefore, criminals could take the opportunity to break in and gain access to personal information that allows them to complete identity theft.