I DECIDED to tackle identity theft as the last part of the cyber and social networking threats series as I would like to put more emphasis to this pressing concern that all of us online users have unconsciously put ourselves into. How so, you may ask.
Firstly, are you aware that merely uploading your picture in your social media accounts is the springboard for cyber threats and risks? Secondly, by regularly updating all your whereabouts and activities through social media can also feed the minds of cyber criminals and use it to your disadvantage?
I bet most of you are stirred about these facts, and I intended to shake you up to prove my point that the online world is indeed a world full of threats and security risks. Initially, you would think that only famous personalities such as actors and actresses, politicians, and other celebrities are the common victims of identity spoofing in which criminals “create fake accounts of musicians, politicians, actors etc. to gather sensitive data from other people or in hopes to tarnishing their image,” but we should also be made discerning that it could happen to anyone of us.
According to the 2017 Unisys Security Index, 93 percent of Filipinos are concerned about identity theft and it is considered by Filipinos as the biggest security threat aside from natural disasters. Additionally, the Department of Justice’s 2014 annual cybercrime report says that nine percent of the cases their agency handled were about people whose identities were misused by criminals.
What then is identity theft? According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), identity theft “occurs when someone appropriates another’s personal information without their knowledge to commit theft or fraud.” A common case of identity theft perpetuated by social media is the creation of fake accounts where fraudsters use your name and profile photo and come up with social media accounts that may be used for illegal activities. These accounts are used to impersonate or disguise for the sole purpose of deception. This is why posting your identification cards online is a big no-no because criminals are just lurking around for these information.
Aside from the risk of being impersonated online, you are also opening up yourselves for other crimes when you post too much information about yourself. For example, when you share your out-of-town trip using your social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., burglars are readily informed that your house is up for their taking. When you post about activities with your family, relatives, and friends, then you are also subjecting them for assaults like kidnapping and may use these deeper insights about you for other crimes like using you as a guarantor for debts and the like.
How many times did we also hear about scam emails and text messages of family members asking for help particularly financial donations because of alleged emergency situations and illnesses? Most of the times, our concerned family and friends will come to our aid without knowing that it is not really us who is communicating with them.
Facebook business pages are also at risk of being used for rackets, where credible establishments and service providers are used to guarantee the trustworthiness of unsuspecting victims, and when find out that the online account is a hoax, it is already too late.
So, how can we protect ourselves from identity theft? First, it’s as simple as not posting too much details about yourself and your loved ones in your social media accounts. Another tip is to avoid falling prey to the various apps through social media no matter how entertaining they can be as these are programs used to gather data from your accounts.
Do not accept or confirm people you are not familiar with and limit your privacy settings to your friends only instead of using a public sharing option. A good move to take is to Google your name to find out if there are any fake accounts that were created. If so, then the good thing to do is report these hoax accounts to the administrators for deletion and blocking.
As I end this series about cyber threats, I would like to leave this important piece of advice: we ourselves hold the key to our physical and cyber security. The actions and decisions that we take especially when using social media sites do not just come with benefits, but threats and risks are also at hand. Prevention is still the best cure. We need to be extra vigilant and protect ourselves from the evolving ways of crimes that are now perpetuated through the internet.