A large majority of us today use social media. Whether your preferred platform is Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or any of the other social media networks, we all share one thing in common. We may not be as secure as we think we are. Based on research and even recent news stories, there is evidence that criminals can easily learn anything they need to know about us, and with a wide variety of photos and information in their hands, they can proceed to create havoc that may adversely affect us.
A Real Life Case Study
A woman in California, Nicole Ortiz, experienced an example of this, first hand, and rather recently, at that. Someone had stolen a picture of her (as well as her name) from her Facebook page. The “identity thief” is believed to have used her picture while advertising a rental property on Craigslist. The rental property deal was shown to be a scam. The end result could have resulted with the victim, Nicole Ortiz, behind bars especially since the Bakersfield Police Department was already looking for her, based on this rental scam that was not even her doing.
In Nicole Ortiz’s case, the entire ordeal could have been avoided had her Facebook profile been set to private and only accepted friends that she personally knew. Keeping your social media circle small helps you to stay secure. The problem with this piece of advice, it is contrary to internet marketing advice out there stating to network with everyone under the sun, and get your name “known,” as well as your services.
Where Freelancing Takes a Vote
While this article is not about the unemployment rate or the level of freelancers in the United States alone, this does come into play. When it comes to these freelancers, platforms like Facebook become essential for making ends meet and paying those bills. Depending on what site you consult, for the stats on employment (especially in the US), you may get different results.
Much of this is because those who have been laid off and qualified for unemployment, also may have fallen off the unemployment based on time and the inability to find work since less jobs are available. As a result, they become freelancers. There are statistics and research supporting the theory that 60% or more of the population functions in a freelancing or part-time freelancing capacity. With freelancing you need a Facebook for things like marketing and advertising, this conflicts with the idea that to protect yourself from identity thief, one must have a private profile. It is possible to have both?
Tips for Security in the Social Media Realm
According to ID Theft Authority, sharing your name, address, and date of birth on social media is enough for a criminal to steal your identify. Unless you use a pseudonym (which is an option), the name part may be tricky, but there is no reason to make your birth date available and your address. These things can be provided privately to those you trust, rather than posted publicly for the world to see. Maybe you even want to pick another birth date and post just the month and day of that different day, to protect yourself. That way, you can get all those fun “Happy Birthdays,” but it will just occur on a different day.
Another tip is to not use the same password for your social media that you would use for things like PayPal, banking sites, USPS, email access, and other government websites. You should have a structure with your passwords that includes the inconsequential password, the medium password, and the high-security password. For the inconsequential sites, using the browser password system may be acceptable (if there is no risk of people accessing your computer and those sites). It isn’t really recommended, but it is convenient. However, that rule should not apply to things like bank sites. Another option is to purchase something like RoboForm and put a complicated master password on the software and store the complicated banking site passwords in that software. Certainly don’t print them out and leave them by your computer!
Password security on social media is more important than you think. Javelin Strategy and Research completed a study in 2013. They found that 10% of people used the same password for their social media accounts and a banking system. If in reading this you realize that you are in this category, we’ll take a pause and give you a moment to change your passwords.
Social media is a prime target for one main reason. It’s ease of access to your personal information. It only takes two or three things to impersonate you, and once they know those things they can even possibly convince friends of yours that they are you, convincing your own friends to reveal more about you. This is a process known as social engineering. You may also be approached by the thief, impersonating staff members of the website via email or private message.
Here is a list of some places to start with security for your social media (and beyond):
- Keep your social media private (i.e. if you are not using it to make your living and can function with a private social media account).
- Only accept people that you know.
- Do not have your social media passwords the same as other sites, like banking sites.
- Don’t trust fake emails and messages.
This is only a start and is not a guarantee that you will not be affected, but it is a list of some basic tips that will help you on your way.