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Fraud and Risk Focus Blog

Like social media? How to keep your accounts safe

12 September 2017

Social media is an important communication channel for families, businesses, the media, law enforcement agencies and politicians – including, increasingly, presidents.

It’s instant, it’s free, it can reach millions of people or be closely targeted, and you can post pretty much anything you want. What’s not to like?

Quite a lot actually, especially when it comes to protecting yourself from being ripped off. Social media is also an important communication and research tool for criminals everywhere.

Criminals’ relationship with social media is complicated, so let’s simplify it by looking at three outcomes you certainly won’t ‘like’ if you’re not careful with how you use your social media accounts.

Giving your details away

The easiest way for someone else to gain access to your online accounts (social media, bank, credit card, retailer, email, etc.) is to give them your login details. Are you inadvertently doing exactly this on your social media accounts?

Many people make it easy for fraudsters to find their (and maybe their partner’s) date of birth in their profile, or by posting when it’s their birthday. That’s one of the key elements people use in their passwords (as well as being an essential tool for identity theft).

They can also see the names of your pets, children (and their birthdays) and your favourite football team – also common password elements. Via your connections – either on the same, or another, social network – they can identify your mother’s maiden name, and find where you were born or your first school – all typical ‘memorable question’ prompts.

Twishing for details

Do you ever see those posts, tweets or other messages click-baiting you to get a free £50 Tesco voucher, a free iPhone that’s not released yet, or some kind of sensational content? The link might be authentic, but why would Tesco, Apple or anybody else give you something just for clicking on a link?

‘Twishing’ – as it’s sometimes called – is the social media equivalent of phishing, where you’re sent to a website which is designed to either capture details like your logins and other confidential details, or infect your computer or mobile device with spyware, ransomware or other unpleasant ‘wares’.

We’re out… come on round!

Not fraud, but equally as distressing, is the phenomenon of burglars using social media to find out when their potential victims are away on holiday, then coming round to burgle your home.

A fun-filled photo of you and the kids enjoying good times in the pool is all it takes. Former England footballer John Terry recently fell victim, while Jodie Marsh avoided such a fate only because she was at home when the burglars struck, enabling her to alert the police.

It’s not only celebs that suffer this fate, it’s everyday people. It’s great showing everyone what fun you’re having away on holiday, but you risk not only having your home ransacked, but the insurance company refusing to pay out because of negligence.

Top tips for using social media

Avoid becoming a victim of fraud, identity theft or similar crimes when using social media by:

  • Checking your settings

Check your privacy settings to make sure only those you want to can see your profile and posts. Even then, you can’t be sure that your information won’t be shared.

  • Limiting the information you share

Don’t use your real date of birth in your profile, or reveal your children’s, pets’ or favourite team’s names if they are used to make up passwords or memorable details.

  • Clicking or tapping with caution

Be very careful what social media links you click or tap on as they may take you to fraudulent or malware-infected websites.

  • Keeping quiet about your holidays

Think twice before posting or uploading holiday pictures telling everybody your home is unoccupied.

Get the whole picture on safe social media from Get Safe Online.

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