I recently noticed that many of my Facebook friends list their birthdate in their profile information. This is asking for trouble because it leaves them at risk of identify theft. Some people even display their full postal address and birthdate in their Facebook profile!
Together this data can be used to impersonate you by thieves calling the call centre support lines of companys you deal with
Having your identity stolen can be devastating both financially and emotionally and can occur in many ways:
- from somebody using your credit card details illegally to make purchases,
- having your entire identity assumed by another person to open bank accounts, take out loans and conducting illegal business under your name,
- or thieves gaining benefits like government social security by pretending to be you.
In it’s Social Networking Security tips the Commonwealth Bank says:
Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn are a great way to keep in contact with friends and update professional associates. Unfortunately they also offer cyber criminals another way to gather information about you. To protect yourself while using these social networking sites:
- Make sure your profile pages are only accessible to people you trust and not to the general public by customising the security settings
- Never publish personal or sensitive information such as your birthday, home address, phone number, drivers license number, tax file number or bank account details
You make it easier for identity thieves when you make lots of information about yourself public like your birthday, address or phone number because these are often used by call centre workers at your phone company, bank, insurance company etc as security questions before they change your password or postal address.
So think carefully about what information you put on Facebook, MySpace and other places where you meet and interact with other people online.
Your real friends already know your birthday, phone number and home address – there is no need to publish this information online where it can be used against you