5 Steps to Stay Safe on Social Media

The UK’s leading fraud prevention service, Cifas, has released a shocking short film highlighting how easy it is for identity thieves to capture your data and is encouraging people to protect their personal information online. They’ve also released new figures that shows a 52% rise in identity fraud against young people. Watch the video to find out what happened when people were asked to ‘like’ a Facebook page in exchange for a free coffee.

This, along with the recent data breaches at big name social networks like LinkedIn and Tumblr have shown that there’s a dark side to being so connected.

To help you stay safe, here’s a brief rundown of what the threat is and how you can protect against it.

The social threat

Identity theft and fraud is on the rise: In 2015, £755 million was lost as a result of financial fraud from payment cards, remote banking and cheques, according to Financial Fraud Action UK – up 26% year-on-year ¹.

The increase in social media use means more of our details are online. In the UK alone, We Are Social claims there are 38 million active social media users ².

Brits are tweeting, posting and sharing as part of their daily routine, but the volume of information is potentially leaving them vulnerable to ID theft and fraud. This is because the more we reveal about ourselves, the easier it is for someone to assume our identities.

Typical information that could be considered sensitive if it landed in the wrong hands includes:

  • Full name (particularly your middle name)
  • Date of birth (often required)
  • Home town
  • Relationship status
  • School locations and graduation dates
  • Pet names
  • Other affiliations, interests and hobbies

Of course, social networks take lots of precautions to protect their users. Incidents at LinkedIn, Tumblr and Myspace have unfortunately come close together, giving the impression that accounts may not be safe. However, good security measures are in place on most sites. What’s more, by being smart online and taking the appropriate security steps, you can help social networks keep your details safe.

How to stay safe

Get serious about your password – When it comes to passwords, lots of us chose something we can easily remember and then use it across lots of different accounts. However, there are two problems with this: 1) if you can remember it, someone else might be able to guess it and 2) if you get hacked on one account, fraudsters may try their luck on different accounts. Ensure you use a different password for each social media account and be smart with your choice. Try using simple yet memorable phrases, such as ‘I have one cat and 2 dogs’. This can be shortened to ‘Ihv1cat&2DgS’, which is much harder to crack.

Lock down your privacy settings – Most social media accounts come with default settings but these may not be the most secure or the ones that you’re comfortable with. Review your settings and make sure only people you trust can see your profile.

Don’t give away too much info – The more details you give, the more vulnerable you are so think about what you’re sharing. The list above gives you an idea of the type of information can be used against you. Consider reviewing each of your social accounts and the purpose for having it. This may help you decide what information is totally necessary.

Cut back on what you like – When you ‘like’ things online, such as local bars and shops, it becomes easy for fraudsters to paint a picture of you. Geographic information like this, for instance, could allow criminals to find out if you’re on the electoral roll and pinpoint your address. This gives them some of the information they need to start applying for credit in your name. Think carefully about what you’re giving your public approval to and if it could be used against you.

Keep an eye on your accounts – To ensure no one has made an application for credit in your name, it’s important to monitor your account activity. Commit to reviewing your Noddle credit report once a month, so you can regularly check that all your information looks as it should. By keeping close eye on your credit report, you’ll be more likely to spot any activity that doesn’t look quite right.

Enjoy social smartly

By taking the above precautions, you will be able to increase your online security, which can help you use social networks as safely as possible.


¹ Based on official 2015 crime statistics from Financial Fraud Action UK

² Based on number of active user accounts, not unique individuals