If you are anything like me, then you will love using social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but have you ever thought about how it may negatively affect your life, aside from no-one liking your status?
It has recently been revealed that fraudsters are using social networks to gather information about people online, and due to the plethora of different ways to gain access to someone’s data, it is all now far too easy to steal someone’s identity.
And if your identity is stolen, then your credit score is at risk, because credit can easily be taken out under your name, but never paid off.
Scary thought, huh?
How someone can steal your online identity
Nowadays, many people give their personal details to websites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, without protecting their information using privacy settings, so along with publicly-accessible information on websites like 192, this makes it easy for criminals to complete a full profile of the person they want to impersonate.
This can lead to fake credit cards, loans or overdraft applications, leaving victims racking up debt that they are unaware of.
Convicted fraudster reveals insider secrets
Data protection firm ALLOW organised special research, where criminologist Professor Martin Gill interviewed a convicted criminal to reveal the tricks of the trade.
ALLOW chief executive Justin Basini said: ‘The results of our research are frightening. What we’ve discovered is that fraudsters use websites and social media to build detailed profiles of their intended targets, cross-referencing information from one site to another.
‘It’s pretty easy to do. A lot of people give so much information away for free without even thinking about it.
‘Some people are also slack with their online privacy settings and are not aware that what they’re posting could be used by fraudsters.
‘The fraudsters then fill in the gap either by buying the data, hacking for it, or tricking someone into revealing it.
‘It’s been quite an eye-opener to see how widespread this was.’
How else do criminals use information online to steal identities
The research also found that online fraudsters use social networks to gather a picture of the person they intend to impersonate, by finding out as much about them as possible, i.e. a person’s hobbies and interests, which can help them hack into personal accounts through guessing passwords.
All this is pretty scary stuff, especially finding out that websites like LinkedIn can be used to gauge someone’s wealth.
Website users are too slack with their personal protection online
ALLOW also carried out a survey as part of the research, and found that one in four internet users have never checked their social media privacy settings.
And 22 per cent of those polled said they accept friend requests from people they don’t even know on Facebook.
So now we know exactly how criminals are taking advantage of your presence online, it is extremely important to check all of your online accounts, and lock them down to people you don’t know, or who appear suspicious.
Mr Basini said: ‘It may take months before you realised it’s happened and the first thing many people now is when they get a letter from their bank or a credit card company demanding repayment, which can be pretty distressing.
‘It would also take you quite a long time to sort out and ascertain the extent of the damage.
‘It also has serious implications at a practical level as it could have an effect on your ability to obtain credit in the future.’
Do you know anyone who has been a victim of online identity theft?