Facebook and Identity Theft -- Can We Relax Yet?

Learn the main cause of identity theft on Facebook and how you can prevent it

Don't you just love Facebook? I do, you do, and so do identity theft criminals. Facebook has taken measures to increase security on the popular social networking site, and yet identity theft continues to be a problem. Discover where the real problem lies, how to stay safe from cybercriminals and enjoy Facebook at the same time.

Who is to blame?

Facebook is a great social networking site. Its developers have worked overtime to put security practices in place to keep its members safe from criminal activity. Yet, in spite of this, identity theft continues to happen. Why?

Sophos, an IT security firm that helps fight identity theft, recently looked into the situation. To find the real reason why Facebook users are susceptible to identity theft, they did a couple of tests. For the test, they created two fictitious Facebook members, a 21-year-old and 56-year-old female.

Each fake member sent out 100 friend requests to randomly chosen Facebook users in their age group. Ninety-five complete strangers chose to become 'friends' with the two fake members within two weeks. If that isn't bad enough, check out the rest of the information from the test:

*8 users became friends with the 56-year-old fake member without being asked.
*89% of the 20-something age group gave away their full birth date
*57% of the 50-something age group gave away their full birth date
*Just under 1/2 of the 20-something crowd and 1/3 of the 50-something crowd gave away personal information about friends and family.

What does this mean? It means Facebook members are willingly giving away personal information to people they don't know -- people who could very well be cybercriminals waiting to steal their identity. This is how identity theft occurs.

Facebook Safety Tips

How can you protect your identity and keep from being the next victim of identity theft? Paul Ducklin, head of technology of Sophos, recommends the following tips:

*Take advantage of your social networking site's security.

All social networking sites have security settings. Use them. When you first join a network, set the security settings to the strictest settings possible and leave them in place until you become familiar with the network. Gradually, begin accepting 'friends' but do it with caution.

*Be a real friend

On Facebook, just like in real life, it's cool to have loads of friends. It makes you feel popular and that everyone likes you. Seeing how many 'friends' you can get seems to be the focus of many on Facebook.

While this is fun, there's also danger involved. In real life, even if you have many friends, you really know that when push comes to shove, you can only depend on a handful of those friends.

The same applies on Facebook. You constantly get add requests and you want to add them but before you do, there's something you need to know. There are people on Facebook to have fun and socialize. Then there are people on Facebook that use it to abuse your personal information and commit identity theft.

The definition for a friend is someone you 'know, like, and trust.' This is a good rule to follow on Facebook. If you personally know the friends you add, you can be pretty sure they aren't just after your personal information. Anonymous 'friends' could be cybercriminals in disguise.

*Once on the internet, always on the internet.

The information you put out about yourself, your friends, and family is forever on the internet. It never goes away. If you post information that includes your date of birth, your phone number, or home address, it will be there forever. The same goes for pictures or information you post about others. So before you post anything, think.

Facebook continues to be a fun place to hang out, catch up with friends, read the latest gossip, and stay in the know. Facebook has made every effort possible to keep their site a fun and safe place. If you want to continue to hang out on Facebook, your safety is up to you.

Take responsibility in what information you post, the friends you accept, and take advantage of the available security. Be diligent in doing these three things and you can continue to enjoy Facebook while staying safe from identity theft.

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