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Does Facebook increase your risk of identity theft?  Social networks can be a source of information for identity thieves, but you can protect yourself. Here's how.


Your goal at all times should be to protect your personal information, your social security number, your mailing address, your bank account numbers, your credit card numbers and your passwords. You should never use any part of personal information for passwords.


For example, the last few digits of your social security number might seem like a good PIN number. It's not. PIN numbers and passwords should be as random as possible while being easy to remember. You don't want to have to write them down or type them somewhere.


A thief can get to know you on Facebook and gain access to your email address. Many people put their email address on Facebook as contact information. That's okay, as long as you are careful about the emails you read and reply to. To keep hackers out of your computer, you should never download any email attachment unless you know the sender.


Identity theft is not the only concern. There are a lot of con men out there. Most of the Internet con men these days seem to be from third world countries. Their goal is to get some of your money, as often as possible.


One of the popular cons is for the con man to hack into and take over an email address of a friend. You get an email that comes from your friend’s legitimate email address. The message says something like they got stuck in another country and need you to send them some money. People fall for these cons.


Identity theft is a bigger threat because the thieves can continue to steal from you over time. They can gain access to your accounts, get credit cards in your name and cause problems with your credit rating. Some people don't know they are victims until they are denied credit because of the thief's activity.


You can monitor your credit report for this kind of activity but that's a time consuming process. To be truly safe, you would need to look at your report on a daily basis and the credit bureaus charge a fee for that sort of thing. This is where the credit monitoring services come in.


With a good credit monitoring service, you can be sure that you will not become a victim of identity theft. These services monitor your account for any activity. For example, if a thief were able to use your Social Security Number, address and other personal information to apply for a credit card, the activity would show up in the report. The service would cause the application to be denied, unless you personally authorized the activity.


Your bank may offer a credit monitoring service that also adds extra security to your checking account for a monthly fee. Most people feel that the fees are worth it, if only because of the added peace of mind.

Your goal at all times should be to protect your personal information, your social security number, your mailing address, your bank account numbers, your credit card numbers and your passwords.

ARTICLES | BY REMUS HOLLAND

Social Networking and Identity Theft

MARCH 1, 2014

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