Are Social Media Users At Higher Risk For Identity Theft?


What do you share on Facebook? Do you say your birth date, or maybe the name of the high school you attended, or what about your dog’s name? Well, guess what: all of those things are often used by companies to verify your identity. So if you’re making that information public, you might be putting yourself at risk for identity theft according to a new study by Javelin Strategy and Research.

This is the first year that Javelin added social media into their comprehensive study of identity theft (this is the ninth annual report) and the information is startling. Here’s what they had to say.

For the first time, Javelin examined social media and mobile phone behaviors and identified certain social and mobile behaviors that had higher incidence rates of fraud than all consumers.  LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Facebook users had the highest incidence of fraud although there is no proof of direct causation. The survey found that despite warnings that social networks are a great resource for fraudsters, consumers are still sharing a significant amount of personal information frequently used to authenticate a consumer’s identity. Surprisingly those with public profiles (those visible to everyone) were more likely to expose this personal information. Specifically, 68 percent of people with public social media profiles shared their birthday information (with 45 percent sharing month, date and year); 63 percent shared their high school name; 18 percent shared their phone number; and 12 percent shared their pet’s name—¬all are prime examples of personal information a company would use to verify your identity.

Ouch. As someone who is public about all that information (and has all her social media profiles set to public, including almighty Facebook), I would definitely be at risk of identity theft however, I do not have an identity anyone can use for much (thanks, recent bankruptcy!). Now, according to this article at the New York Times, Facebook has dismissed the survey, saying it doesn’t prove anything.

Fred Wolens, a spokesman for Facebook, dismissed the survey’s findings, saying it doesn’t reveal any higher risk of fraud among Facebook users because the percentages reported were within the survey’s stated margin of error.  “This survey doesn’t prove anything,” he said. He added that it is “common sense” that if you post about your dog using its name on Facebook, you probably shouldn’t be using your dog’s name as any sort of password.

You can read the full survey here. So what do you think? Will this new information change your behavior on social media sites?

Tagged as: