Every month or so there is a new game on Facebook. From the mannequin challenge to Throwback Thursday, there is always something new. The newest Facebook trend could be putting you at risk for identity theft.
Identity theft is defined as a crime where a thief steals your personal information, such as your full name or social security number, to commit fraud. The identity thief can use your information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status and take money and time to restore your good name. Often times you don’t even realize that you are a victim of identity theft until it’s too late – i.e. you are attempting to qualify for a home or car.
I know you are thinking, what on any social media platform, let alone Facebook could be putting you at risk for identity theft. Facebook should be a fun way to keep in touch with family and friends. Well, the newest Facebook trend of answering “harmless” questions as your Facebook status and challenging others to do the same could be giving hackers easy access to the answers for your financial security questions. Here are a few questions that I have seen lately that are a playground for hackers:
What is your mother’s maiden name?
What was your high school mascot?
Where did you meet your spouse?
What was your first car?
What street did you grow up on?
Sure those appear to be harmless questions but they literally could be the security questions used to access your bank account!
Over 15 million Americans are victims of Identity Theft each year! I don’t want you to be one of those victims! Although answering those questions seems like fun and games, you could literally be putting yourself at risk for identity theft. Even if you think you know all of your Facebook friends and feel safe on social media, you would be surprised what can happen online.
In fact, I was a victim of tax-related identity theft. In 2013, someone used my social security number to file taxes in an attempt to get a tax refund. I didn’t even realize I was a victim of identity theft until I tried to file my taxes and I was notified that someone had already filed taxes under my social security number.
Besides the fact that it was a huge hassle, it took my almost a year to get everything straightened out and to finally get the tax refund that was owed to me. Now every year I have a special number to enter when filing my taxes so the IRS knows it is me. I am not 100% sure how the person got ahold of my social security number but it puts me on heightened alert to avoid the same thing from happening again.
Tips to Avoid Identity Theft & Fraud
Create complex passwords that identity theft thieves can not easily guess. (Something more complicated than your birthday or dogs name.) Change your passwords if a company that you deal with has a data breach.
Order your credit report once a year and review it in detail. Ensure that all of the accounts were opened by you and that there are no unauthorized credit inquiries.
Review your receipts. Ensure that your bank account statement matches up with your receipts.
Avoid disclosing non-public information over the internet (i.e. full birthdate, popular security questions, etc.).
Shred mail and unused personal documents like credit card approvals, bank statements, expired credit cards, etc..
Ignore unsolicited responses for your non-public information via mail, phone or the internet (i.e. full name, social security number, birthdate, etc…).
Steps if you are a Victim of Identity Theft
If you are a victim of identity theft, report it immediately. The Federal Trade Commission and your local police department can help you to file the proper complaint.
Report the theft to the credit bureaus, financial institutions, and state protection agencies or the attorney general. The more action you take when it first happens can spare you a headache in the long run.