Do you know someone who feels the need to share every detail of his life on social media with little or no regard to who might be watching? You’ve probably seen a post like one of these: “Check out this awesome driver’s license photo!” “This has been the best birthday ever!” “I can’t believe I’m going to own THIS house!”
From your sister, who constantly broadcasts her current location, to your high school friend, whose profile is peppered with photos of big-ticket purchases and exotic vacations, you likely have someone in your network who overshares. And let’s be honest: Maybe it’s you who’s oversharing. Just beware that oversharing may make life easier for identity thieves.
So, what can you do to help make sure you aren’t putting yourself at risk? Start by considering the information you’re voluntarily sharing and other information your devices might be sharing for you. Here are a few tips.
While many people may know to keep things like Social Security numbers private, the growing body of information posted online could be used against you. These personal facts may make it easier for identity thieves and hackers, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Reconsider sharing things like full name, birth date, current employer, family member names and, of course, your home address.
But there’s also information that many of us share in passing that may help cyber criminals answer your password retrieval questions. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, you may want to rethink sharing your hometown, marital status, schools attended and even your pet’s name on social media. Identity thieves and hackers may use this information as a starting point when answering those security questions.
It’s natural to want to share good news with your social networks — just be careful about how much you’re sharing. For instance, try an Instagram search for the hashtag “driverslicense,” and you’ll see a lot of smiling faces waving that new license, and the personal information on it, at the camera. Others are so excited to share a picture of a birthday meal that they don’t spot their credit card in the corner of the frame. Next time you’re uploading a photo, make sure that there is absolutely no personal information in sight.
As social media evolves, so do privacy settings. One of the easiest ways to help make sure you’re sharing more safely on social media is to periodically check the privacy settings and policies for the sites you’re using throughout the year, says the BBB.
Most social media apps generally allow users to pinpoint their precise whereabouts with geolocation tags, says the Federal Trade Commission. If you haven’t turned the setting off, posting a status update from the couch may broadcast your address to the world. According to Credit.com, identity thieves may use your address as one of the necessary pieces of financial data to potentially verify and steal your identity. Know how to turn off geolocation on all of your apps before posting your thoughts on social media.
It can be hard not to share everything good, bad or frustrating on social media. But these steps can help mitigate the risks of having your identity compromised — whether you’re sharing your latest 5K time or a picture of a particularly decadent dessert.
Originally published June 3, 2014.