It appears the days of Bonnie and Clyde are behind us as the FBI reports a steady decline in the number of bank robberies.
We shouldn’t be surprised though. Why use a gun and mask when you can simply steal someone’s identity and money using a home computer? In 2011 alone, identity fraud increased by 13 percent with more than 11.6 million Americans becoming victims.
And it appears the largest group of targets are those using LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. These sights and a host of similar social media destinations hold a treasure trove of personal information that thieves use to steal and/or verify your identity.
LinkedIN users, in particular, seem to have the most to worry about. A full 10% of those who use the online professional networking site reported being a victim of identity fraud.
IT security firm Sophos performed a study to determine how easy it is to steal identities via Facebook. Surprisingly the security firm found that people not only readily give away their own personal information, but the information of their family and friends as well.
“People aren’t just handing over their own life story to criminals. They’re betraying people close to them too, helping those cybercrooks build up a detailed picture of their life and their milieu. This is an identity scammer’s dream,” warned Paul Ducklin, Sophos head of technology.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
Remember, the people who friend you on Facebook or connect with you on LinkIN could be identity thieves. Be careful with your personal information. No one needs to know the name of your high school, the model of your first car, or the name of your first girlfriend/boyfriend (all common security questions used by ID thieves). And when personal information is needed online provide only the minimum. You seldom need to submit your full birth-date, for instance.
Finally, in this day and age it pays to monitor your credit card, bank accounts, and credit reports. According to the Javelin report, 43 percent of fraud was first discovered by the victim.
Remember, it’s fun being social but shady characters could be “listening” in on your conversation.
BMWK — Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? Do you unwittingly give away personal information online?