Mark Pribish

ID-theft criminals love the trail we leave on social media

By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

Most of us are guilty of telling the world personal information, such as our date of birth, or when and where we are traveling by posting vacation photos. This makes it much too easy for the bad guys.

Can you imagine giving strangers photos or personal information about your job, residence, financials or family - or telling a robber the best time to rob you?

Stop imagining and let this be a wake-up call, because too many of us are enabling ID-theft criminals through social networking.

Most of us are guilty of telling the world personal information, such as our date of birth, or when and where we are traveling by posting vacation photos, especially if those photos contain geographical information (geotagging).

This makes it much too easy for the bad guys, as this type of information enables ID-theft criminals to victimize us. For example, even something as innocuous as sharing a photo of your family in the park near your house could inadvertently lead a child predator to where your children live and play.

Most of us are also guilty of accepting the "terms and conditions" or ignoring the "privacy settings" of social networks without reading and understanding the implications. I highly recommend that you and your family members read and understand the privacy settings of your favorite social-networking sites.

For example, as a LinkedIn member, I am guilty of not reading the terms and conditions. I was surprised when I read a May CNNMoney article titled "8 worst terms of service ever." According to the article,

"The company has permission to claim anything you share on the professional-networking service - even indirectly - and change it, share it or profit from it. ...

When asked about the clause, LinkedIn said it reserves those powers - but it doesn't intend to use them."

Sound scary? It's not just LinkedIn. Every social-networking site has terms and conditions that might make you hesitate about which sites you choose to join and what types of personal or professional information you share.

Criminals use a variety of sources, including social media, to steal our identities. While they may purchase, or hack, our Social Security number or credit-card information, they commonly look to social media for details such as our date of birth or address, as this type of information is commonly found there and can be used to open fraudulent accounts.

We need to be aware that posts, blogs, tweets and photo sharing create the equivalent of an electronic fingerprint - and that's exactly what ID-theft criminals are looking for.

We also need to be more careful about accepting professional connections and "friend" requests from individuals we do not know. While there is a temptation to connect professionally with someone that has a big title or to be friends with someone who knows everyone, the proliferation of fake LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts increases every day, so beware.

One of the purposes of fake accounts on social-networking sites is to gather data – our sensitive data. Fake profiles can help hackers and ID-theft criminals steal your information, such as e-mail addresses.

To be clear, social networking is a good thing and allows us the opportunity to grow and maintain valued relationships. Just be aware of the risks.

Stop ignoring terms and conditions, read, understand and use privacy settings and be diligent about your social networking. Beware of fake accounts, unless you want to be a partner in your own identity theft.


To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


"Ugly" Instagram Con Leads to Hacking

Instagram users beware of this new con, hackers are just a click away.

July 01, 2016

Instagram users are reporting a new scam called the "Ugly List." Instagram users are fooled into thinking a friend tagged them in a mean-spirited prank. However, it's really a phishing con.

How the Scam Works:

You get an Instagram notification saying you've been tagged in a post. The catch? The post is called "Ugly List 2016," and it was a friend who tagged you. How mean!

In the notification, there's a link to see the full post. You click on it, and it leads to a page that appears to be the Instagram log in. You need to enter your username and password before you can see the "Ugly List."

Don't fall for it! The form is fake. It's a way for scammers to steal usernames and passwords. Once scammers have your account info, they will hack your Instagram and tag your followers in new "Ugly List" posts, perpetuating the con and stealing more information.

Tips to avoid this con:

  • Do a quick search. Be wary of anything that is shocking or sensational on social media. If it seems suspicious, do an online search. If it's a scam, chances are that other victims have posted complaints and information online.
  • Don't trust your friends' tastes online. It might not actually be them "liking" or sharing these scam posts. Their account may have been hacked.
  • Hover over a link to see its true destination. Before you click, mouse over the link to see where it will take you. Don't click on links leading to unfamiliar websites.
  • Report an Instagram scam. Check out Instagram's resources for reporting scams.
  • If your account has been hacked, see Instagram's advice on securing your account and/or reporting the violation.

For More Information

To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).

Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau - for more information visit http://www.bbb.org/phoenix/news-events/

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.