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Social media is a gold mine for fraudsters

Visa survey shows 58 percent of consumers are aware of sharing information that could put them at risk.

Late 2013, Visa performed a survey through phone interviews, asking customers about their social media habits. A stunning 58 percent of US consumers are aware of sharing details about their lives on social media that could assist fraudsters in stealing their identity.

Most users are active on more than one social media platform. Consider a combination of LinkedIn providing a professional resume, Twitter giving frequent updates during the day, Instagram sharing images of surroundings and loved ones, Foursquare providing physical locations, and Facebook sharing all personal information in between, it is possible to know nearly every aspect of a person’s life without ever meeting them. It is no longer necessary to have access to a person’s credit card or similar to steal their identity.

Some things like birthdays, pet’s names, and e-mail addresses seem innocent enough, but could be enough to help a fraudster crack through security questions when taking over an account. Other information such as social security number and banking information seems self-evident not to share, but people still do. A full seven percent of customers had shared their social security number over social media. In addition, 20 percent provided their home address, 29 percent gave out their phone number, and 14 percent shared their mother’s maiden name.

This isn’t the first survey to try to quantify how much consumers are oversharing, and other studies have found that consumers who are less careful with their social media profiles are more likely to experience identity fraud. Javelin Strategy & Research conducted a survey in late 2011 and found that 25% of Facebook users either have public profiles or their profile information can be seen by “friends of friends.” It was found that 7.5% of U.S. adults in this population experienced identity fraud that year compared to 5% of U.S. adults overall. Facebook users that accept friend requests from strangers are even more likely to experience identity fraud at 9%.

It is important to remember that anything uploaded to the Internet – even with privacy settings – will likely remain available to everyone forever, and organizations need to remind their customers of this fact. Organizations also have to take this into consideration when being presented with an identity or when someone attempts to access user accounts online. Relying on shared secrets loses value when these answers are shared via social media.

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