Social networking sites have become an easy way to stay in touch with family and friends, and to share information and pictures. As with any online environment, you need to take precautions to protect your personal information from fraudsters.
How does online fraud happen on social networking sites?
Posting too much personal information in your social networking profile could result in identity theft, financial fraud and monetary losses.
You should consider whatever you post as being accessible to the entire world. If you would not put it on a public bulletin board, then do not post it online. Even if you delete your profile, it can still remain on the Internet.
As in any type of fraud, fraudsters will go after the easiest victims first. They will target social networking accounts that are not using the security features available on the site, in the Internet browser or in security and anti-virus software.
The easiest way for fraudsters to get access to your information is to send you a “friend request” or something similar. Many people assume that only people who know you or have contacts in common would send you a request, and accept it without questioning. You should never accept a friend request if you do not know the person sending it or would not be comfortable with that person having access to your personal information and photos.
Once fraudsters have access to or control of your profile, they can use this information for identity theft. They can also try to use your account to commit other types of fraud, like telling people you are in trouble and asking them to send money to help you out.
Fraudsters are trying to get their hands on any information they can find out about you. Your personal details may not be harmful on their own, but once they are combined, you can be at a higher risk for fraud.
How to reduce your risks
- Do not post your home address, telephone number, children’s names, names of schools or employers, or specific details about when you will be absent from home on business trips or vacations.
- If you have to post your date of birth, do not include your year of birth.
- Use different passwords for different applications like social networking sites, email and online banking. Change your passwords often.
- Use secure Internet access only when you access social networking sites. Do not use public Wi-Fi hotspots to link to your social networking pages.
- Use the social networking site’s enhanced privacy settings and only allow approved people to access your profile.
- Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know.
- If you do not want the world to know something or to see a specific picture of you, do not post it or let any friends post it.
- Be aware of a site’s privacy settings and policies when you are creating a profile or setting up an account. It is important to know how they protect your data and what they are allowed to do with it. Check whether the site is allowed to sell your information to other companies.
- Learn what you should do if you think your account or profile has been hacked or taken over. It’s important to do this before you become a victim of fraud. That way if your account gets hacked, you will be able to follow the proper steps to get your account returned to you.
What to do if you become a victim
If you think you have become a victim of fraud, take the following steps:
- Start a written log: write down when you noticed the fraud and the actions you took, including names of people you spoke to and dates of communications.
- File a report with your local police.
- Contact your financial institutions and any other companies (e.g., phone company or cable provider) where your accounts were tampered with, or are at risk of being tampered with.
- If you are a victim of real estate fraud, call your provincial or territorial land registry office.
- Advise Canada’s two credit rating agencies, TransUnion and Equifax.
- Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and learn more at the website Get Cyber Safe.