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- Fraudsters will try to get your personal information and answers to security questions on social media.
- Of the 24 million households that have experienced an “account takeover,” the average loss was $12,000.
- Here are five ways to prevent getting your identity stolen on social media.
To date, more than 24 million US households have fallen victim to a type of online fraud known as an “account takeover,” with an average of $12,000 per household stolen, according to a 2021 report from Security.org.
According to Jason Lord, vice president of product marketing, fraud and identity solutions at TransUnion, an increasing amount of fraud attempts start on social media.
Lord says fraudsters first scour social media for basic information like your name, address, phone number, and Social Security number.
“The second most valuable piece of information are answers to knowledge-based authentication questions — your mother’s maiden name, the name of your first pet, or what color your house was growing up,” he says. “The reason fraudsters are so interested in social media and social engineering is because they can get answers to those questions.”
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Here are five tips to help you avoid identity theft scams on social media.
1. Do not give your personal information to strangers
A common scam is when a message pops up on Facebook or Instagram prompting people to fill out a form for a new job opportunity or government grant. At the end, the form asks for your bank account number and routing information. Lord says to be cautious of any forms that ask for your bank account information.
He adds, “Never give out your Social Security number. Anytime anybody’s asking for things like your date of birth, or your mother’s maiden name, never give out that information.” These key pieces of information are the first steps scammers take to access your accounts.
2. If you get a suspicious message from a friend, call or text them to confirm
Lord says another common way people get scammed is that they’ll get messages from friends whose Facebook or Instagram accounts have been hacked, asking them for money in an emergency.
“You have to be careful because profiles can be cloned to make it look like someone you know is reaching out. Anytime anyone’s asking for personal information, find a different way of getting in contact with that individual,” says Lord.
For example, if you get a Facebook message from your Aunt Beatrice that sounds suspicious, give her a quick call to confirm whether she’s experiencing a financial emergency and has reached out to you on Facebook about it.
3. Update your privacy settings
Lord says, “It’s a good idea to make sure that only the people you want to see your content or connect with you are doing so.”
You can set your profiles to private, or limit the people who see your profile on Facebook to those with whom you already have mutual connections.
“This is especially a good idea if you have older relatives who are not as internet-savvy, and you are fearful that they might be a victim.”
4. Turn on two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication is an extra step that asks you to enter a confirmation code sent via text or email to log onto your social media account.
“This is one of the strongest ways to prevent somebody else from logging into your account. Even if they do have your login information, they won’t get the passcode that’s being sent to your phone, so they’ll never be able to access your account,” says Lord.
5. Step back if you feel pressured to give personal information
If you get a message from a loved one’s hacked account pressuring you for information, or from a company claiming you have a limited time to receive a government benefit, Lord says you should take those feelings of urgency as a red flag.
Lord says, “They might be telling you that there’s a limited amount of time, or ‘This is really important!’ or ‘I need you to do this right now!’ Anytime that you are feeling pressured, that’s a signal that’s something’s wrong and you should take a step backwards.”