A new study shows just how much more susceptible social media users are to identity theft.
In Javelin Research's 2012 Identity Fraud Report, the firm found more than 11.6 million consumers were victimized by identity theft in 2011, jumping 13 percent over the year prior.
Of those victims, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Facebook users reported the most incidents of fraud. But LinkedIn users set themselves apart, proving more than twice as likely to report fraud attempts.
Javelin points out that there's still no direct proof that tweeting will put you in scammers' crosshairs, but it's not hard to see why social networkers are such easy targets.
People with social media profiles are basically serving up their personal information to potential thiefs on a silver platter, with 68 percent posting their birthday and 45 percent tacking on the month and year as well, the report found.
More than 60 percent shared their high school name, 18 percent listed their phone number and another 12 percent posted about their pet by name – all of which are common questions asked by financial institutions to confirm identities. Overall, smartphone users were 33 percent more at risk for fraud than the general public.
"Thirty-two percent of smartphone owners do not update to a new operating system when it becomes available," the report says. "Sixty-two percent do not use a password on their home screen—enabling anyone to access their information if the phone is lost, and 32 percent save login information on their device."
Other than updating your privacy settings, Javelin shared a few tips on preventing identity theft:
1. Keep personal data private—At home, at work and on your mobile devices, secure your personal and financial records in a locked storage device or behind a password. Of those consumers who knew how the crimes were committed, nine percent of all identity fraud crimes were committed by someone previously known to the victim in 2011. Avoid mailing checks to pay bills or to deposit funds in your banking account. Use online bill payment on a secure Internet access (not a public Wi-Fi hotspot) instead and direct deposit payroll checks.
2. Be social, be responsible—While social networks are popular, be careful about publicly exposing personal information that is typically used for authentication (full birth date, high school name). This applies to all social networks.
3. Use mobile devices responsibly—Mobile devices are a treasure trove of information for fraudsters. The “always on” functionality of mobile devices provides fraudsters with new avenues for securing information. Be sure of the applications you download, the data you share over public Wi-Fi and where you leave your devices.
4. Ask questions— Before providing any information on mobile phones, social media sites and transaction sites, question who is asking for the information? Why do they need it? How is the information being used? If volunteering information, ask yourself if you have more to gain or more to lose by sharing personal and unnecessary details.
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