How at risk is your identity?
The boom in social networking helps us keep in touch with family, friends and an expanding social circle — but some of the most popular websites can be a magnet for fraudsters looking for ways to steal other peoples’ identities and open up new lines of credit.
If you’re unlucky enough to become a victim, often the first time you’ll discover that your identity has been stolen is when a card purchase is declined or a new credit agreement — such as a new mobile phone contract — is refused.
These social networking safety tips can help to keep you safe while you socialise.
Phishing — Don’t Take the Bait
Most of us delete e-mails from banks and other official-looking organisations that ask for updated login details in order to “restore access to your account,” but you should also watch out for unexpected pop-ups that request personal information from links on your friends’ social networking pages. If any include a request for personal or login information, be on your guard — a fraudster could be trying to steal your details.
Watch What you Post
Try to avoid putting your e-mail address, date of birth, contact numbers and your pet’s or any family member’s name on your social networking pages. If fraudsters get enough of this information it can enable them to set up a new credit account or make a guess at the passwords protecting your bank and credit card accounts. Use your network settings to restrict access to your closest friends. Don’t put up anything you really want to keep private and consider restricting who can post messages about you — your friends might inadvertently post something that might be useful to a criminal.
Be Wary of Invitations to Download Files and Videos
File sharing is a great way of passing on pictures, music and video — but files can contain hidden viruses. One tried and tested scam is an invitation to download a software update. While it can look like the real deal, it could be a Trojan virus that takes confidential information from your computer. Viruses can be hidden in any type of file, so check before you click to download — even if it comes from someone you know. You wouldn’t open an attachment if a stranger e-mailed you out of the blue — nowadays, you can’t be certain that a message in your inbox has really come from the person it says it’s from.
Go for Quality Rather than Quantity
It’s good to stay in touch with friends and can be fun to have more contacts than anyone else – but some requests to join your social network might not be genuine. The more people you blindly trust, the more likely it is that some of them will be there to gather information on you. If someone claims to be a friend of a friend, check. Never accept an invitation from someone unfamiliar.
Don’t Share Passwords
It doesn’t happen often but some people do share passwords — don’t. And don’t be tempted to give out a password to anyone, even to allow a friend or family member to look at your photos or check messages for you. It’s unlikely that someone you know well will abuse your trust but it can happen, even it’s only done for fun.
Regularly Check that your ID is Safe
Just because you take precautions, don’t assume that your personal information is safe — there’s always a chance that someone has enough data about you to steal your identity. For peace of mind, use an online service like CreditExpert to keep an eye on your credit report. This is the personal history of credit you have taken out, such as loans, credit cards, mortgages and mobile phone contracts. Crucially, it includes new applications for credit. Lenders search it and leave a record whenever you apply for credit, so if anyone has been trying to borrow money or buy things on credit in your name, you’ll see and can bring the scam to a halt.
Experian CreditExpert provides more than just your credit report, including: