Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are great tools many of us use to share information with our family and friends or to use for networking professionally in a job search. Despite these advantages, these social networking sites have made it very easy for thieves to steal your identity, especially sites with access to your financial information such as Mint.com. The following are some tips gathered from the banking industry and social media sites to help prevent your identity from being stolen and to ensure your information is kept private.
1. Limit use of personal information. Be cautious of what you list in your profile. Your online profile may contain enough information for thieves to piece together answers to those “challenge questions” often used by online banking or e-commerce sites to help you recover your forgotten password. It is not recommended to list personal information like your home address, phone number, birthday, etc.
2. Do not respond to those fun emailed quizzes. Many of those emailed quizzes or games, that are meant to be for fun, seem to ask a variety of meaningless questions. However, some of the questions such as "what is your favorite color?" can be attempts to gather answers to the “challenge questions” mentioned above.
3. Use privacy settings to restrict who can access your information. Limit what information is available and who can see it.
4. Don’t only rely on the privacy settings. Know how the privacy settings work, and set them to limit inadvertent exposure as much as possible. As part of operations, networking sites tag each user in order to access the user’s personal profile. An advertiser or third party tracking site who obtains the user’s tag via banners on the site can gain access to the user’s personal profile. Recently it was reported in the news that Facebook inadvertently released the user’s tag when users accessed games such as Mafia Wars through their site.
5. Use browser security to refuse third party cookies.
6. Vary your password. Use a password for social networking websites that is different from the ones for your e-mail, e-commerce and financial websites. Ideally, you should use a different password on each website.
7. Know who you are “friending”. Refuse requests from people you don’t know. They may be interested in more than your friendship.
8. Beware of links in email messages. Links sent in messages sometimes lead to websites that distribute malware. Consider the source of the message: is it from someone who never sends you messages? Does the message sound like something your friend would send? If it looks suspicious, ask your friend if they really sent it. If they didn’t, their computer may be infected with malware which actually sent you the message.