According to a 2012 Javelin Strategy & Research report on identity fraud, nearly 12 million Americans were victims of identity theft last year. This is an increase of 13 percent compared to 2011. One area that the report notes is increasingly putting consumers at risk is social media. Even though warnings state that social media outlets are a great resource for identity thieves, consumers continue to share personal information that can be used to validate their identity.
To assist consumers in taking action, Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (bbb.org) offers five tips to help them protect their identities while using social media outlets.
1) Use strong passwords that no one can decipher, and keep it a secret. Do not use kids, pets, or husband/wife names because someone can guess and check those easily. Also, never share your password with others. You are in control of your account; therefore you should be the only one that manages it.
2) Take advantage of the privacy options and established safety features on social media sites. When completing an online profile, most sites will allow you to select what information is public and private. Review the settings carefully, making sure to designate as much personal information private so that only invited friends can see it.
3) Be cautious when clicking links on social networking sites. Clicking on links or even pictures can lead to viruses, or other malicious code being installed on your computer. Always know who the information is coming from; if you are unsure, avoid clicking on it.
4) Use a web browser with higher security. Tracking while browsing on the Internet has become an increasing concern as ID fraudsters look to gain the upper hand. Use browsers with advanced security, or install a high-security browser plug-in or do-not-track feature. Doing so will help reduce the risk of your activity being followed.
5) Report any incidents where your information may have been breached. Most social networking sites offer an option to report suspicious activity. Do not hesitate to utilize this tool if you have concerns regarding your personal information.
“As social media outlets continue to increase in popularity, so too does the risk of identity theft by unscrupulous individuals,” says Toby Barfield, president and CEO of BBB serving Eastern North Carolina. “It is more important than ever to control and protect the personal information you divulge to the public.”
To further assist consumers in protecting their identities, BBB will host its semi-annual “Secure Your ID” Day on Saturday, April 21, 2012. The event takes place from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the Coastal Federal Credit Union headquarters on St. Albans Drive in Raleigh. Participants are encouraged to bring up to three boxes or bags of sensitive documents that have been removed from binders. Additional event information is available at www.easternnc.bbb.org/secure-your-id.
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Contact: Brian Van Norman