Wangari Kamande is a Research Analyst at Social Media Group.

I recently watched the movie “Identity Theft” with Jason Bateman and one of my favourite funny ladies Melissa McCarthy. It’s quite humorous and at times you forget the pain that the victim of identity theft is going through; threatened job loss,  financial loss and wasted time just to name a few. As I was watching the movie, I thought to myself, how frequently does this happen? What puts one at risk of identity theft aside from being gullible enough to give all your information to a random caller on the phone as Bateman’s character does?

So I started to look at some statistics surrounding this crime and here is what I found:

  • According to the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic in 2005 there were approximately 11,000 cases of identity theft in Canada alone leading to $9,000,000 in lost funds, these numbers continues to grow
  • In the US Javelin Strategy & Research found that in 2011, 11.6 million adults became victims of identity fraud
  • found that 65% of users do not set high privacy security settings in their social networking sites and 40% of respondents share their home address on these sites
  • Less than 10% of users review a website’s privacy policy before engaging in use

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Identity theft is growing and social media is said to be powering the rise of this crime. In fact, social networking sites are fertile ground for identity theft as they are built around self- selected networks of friends and colleagues; as such people tend to be more trusting of communication through the sites thereby putting themselves at greater risk of getting scammed. Below are some ways you can protect yourself, while these may not get you covered 100% of the time; they will make you a difficult target.

  1. Ensure your privacy security settings in your social networking sites are set so that you can share information with only people you choose
  2. Choose a password that cannot be easily deciphered, use numbers and a mix of capital and small letters
  3. Avoid sharing a lot of personal information on your social media profiles e.g. complete date of birth, address, phone number etc
  4. Install and update antivirus software to maximize protection against malware that is used for identity theft
  5. Ensure that your wireless  network connection is secure to avoid exposing personal information transmitted on the network
  6. Do not save your passwords on work or public computers. Many social media sites have the “remember my password” section selected by default, un-check that box
  7. Do not click on email links sent to you from your social media provider; instead go directly to the website to verify information. New and successful social media scams create emails that are tailor made to look like they are directly from a social media provider
  8. Unless you are willing to thoroughly review the terms and conditions of online applications and sites, avoid using them if they require access to your personal information

Given that we are in the digital age, how are you guarding yourself from identity theft?


Relevant Resources:

Identity Theft Quizzes

Personal Information Online: How Much is Too Much?