Survey Reveals That Millions of Social Media Users at Risk of Identity Theft
Harris Interactive, a leading company specializing in communications tools that survey consumers, recently conducted a survey of users on social networking sites. The survey found that a high percentage of users inadvertently reveal information on social networking sites that could lead to identity theft.
The Harris Interactive survey found that more than 13 million Americans that use social networking sites are willing to accept requests to be friends from strangers and mainly those of the opposite sex. According to the survey, about five percent of adult Americans will accept a friend request from someone they do not know, nearly seven percent of women will accept a request from a man they do not know, and 18 percent of men will accept a request from a woman who they do not know.
Also, the Harris Interactive survey showed that fifty percent of American adults trust their connections to keep their personal information private while more than 24 million Americans leave most of their information public on social networking sites. The results originate from a survey conducted of 1,011 Americans that are 18 years of age or older and includes 387 that are on social networking sites.
The Harris Interactive Key to Identity Theft on Social Networks
Although most adults are aware of the dangers of leaving personal information public, some are unaware of some of the basic information that can expose you to identity theft. For this reason, many social networking users leave personal information public that they would never suspect a criminal would use to steal an identity.
In a news release by CNET on the Harris Interactive survey, the key to identity theft on social networking sites is built with a handful of pieces. The problem is that a lot of this information is openly available on social networks. Harris Interactive described the pieces of this information in a diagram of a key which consisted of eight pieces.
The information that some social networking users consider basic are part of the eight pieces to the key including birthplace, address, phone number, school attended, the name of your pet, car color, social security number, and date of birth. When you look at it some of this information can be used to answer security questions on financial information where other information can be used to steal an identity outright.
Everyone likes to have others remember their birthday however when this information is posted online even without the year as part of the date it can be openly used by criminals to commit identity theft. Although a car color may seem insignificant this type of information could be used to answer a security question. The same rule applies to the name of your pet when you think about some of the security questions you are asked to answer if you forget a password to one of your accounts.
So the point of the survey is that Americans often lack caution when it comes to the type of information they make public on social networking sites. This could come from lack of understanding of how online criminals work or from being too trusting of others in an environment where friending others is not risk-free.
For more information on how services like Lifelock and TrustedID and protect you, read our identity protection reviews here.