What Your Facebook Profile May Be Telling ID Thieves
Your pet's name is a fraudster's best friend.
You may think you're revealing precious little when you tell your Facebook friends that you're dressing your pooch, Puddles, in your favorite color, red, for brunch at Grandma's on Sunday. But you've actually just opened a Pandora's box of risks.
The information consumers willingly, and often unwittingly, post on social-media websites can be a gold mine for fraudsters looking to steal everything from your flat-screen TV to your identity.
What's more, tidbits like your birth date, birthplace and the last school you attended are typically the challenge questions posed by bank websites and online retailers to verify your identity.
"Despite all the awareness that people have about identity fraud and privacy on social networks, there is a disconnect between [that and what they are] disclosing in online space and social environments," said Thomas Oscherwitz, chief privacy officer for ID Analytics, a San Diego-based consumer risk management firm.
More than 24 million Americans 18 years old and older are still leaving their social-network profiles mostly public, meaning they aren't activating privacy controls that limit who can see their information online, according to a Harris Interactive survey conducted in October for ID Analytics.
The survey also found that nearly 70 million U.S. adults on social-networking sites include their birthplace — one of the most common security questions asked by financial institutions — on their profiles.
"The information people are disclosing is not the entire piece of the puzzle but it's certainly helpful," Oscherwitz said. Thieves steal identities in pieces, he said, and layer them on each other for a clearer picture.