How Staying Off Social Media Can Keep You Safer & Happier This Summer

sharing-on-social-media

Let’s face it, there’s no bigger downer than working all day and coming home to images of other people’s awesome vacations — that is, nothing except maybe coming home to find out you’ve been robbed or had your identity stolen.

According the Pew Research Center, 65% of adults use social media, and among people aged 18 to 29, the percentage skyrockets to more than 90% of the population. For a family with kids, a staggering amount of information finds its way onto potentially public forums. As usage increases, so too does the risk of identity-related crimes.

FOMO Gets Real

The good folks at Merriam-Webster added about 2,000 new words to the company’s unabridged dictionary this year, among them, “FOMO,” an acronym that stands for “fear of missing out.” This fear has created an environment where hundreds of millions of social media users overshare every morsel of their lives as a quid for connecting in a virtual setting with others who have a similar unquenchable thirst.

Unfortunately, this type of over-sharing — and, even, FOMO, itself — could be leading to bigger issues.

Feeling Depressed?

It really could be FOMO. Studies have shown that the fear of missing out causes anxiety and depression, and that it can resemble addiction. And here’s the problem with that: The attendant distraction level produced can open the door to mistakes. Distraction is all a thief needs to scam you. FOMO exposes you and your family to crime.

A good fraudster or scam artist can use all kinds of information — things that seem completely un-useable to the non-criminal mind — to profit at your expense.

And, if you don’t think getting robbed should count as an identity-related crime, consider the fact that burglars and identity thieves routinely scour social media to find targets — including people who are on vacation. The home address and current location of a social media user can be relatively easy to figure for a savvy surfer.

While a lot of FOMO happens on social sites like Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, there’s plenty happening by way of text, too, especially among young people who can easily generate hundreds, even thousands, of messages in no time.

On the texting front, with so many texts whizzing around you and your kids, it is way too easy to click on a phishing link that downloads malware, and from there it’s just a matter of time before you are scammed.

FOGRO (Fear of Getting Ripped Off)

The antidote for all this fevered activity? FOGRO, or fear of getting ripped off. And while, admittedly, it isn’t as much fun to say, it might be a step in the right direction.

The key to rightsizing FOMO might be admitting it could be a problem. That may be all it takes to instill a little fear of getting ripped off, and with that, a slightly less reactive connection to the media we use, whether social or person-to-person communication.

Even a momentary pause before posting or clicking can mean the difference between a normal day and a nightmare.

Talk about the pause button with your family, and why it matters.

Since it seems unlikely that current trends in social media use are going to take a turn for the safer, I thought it might be helpful to review how to best navigate social media so it’s use is more secure.

Rules for Safer Social

  1. Set privacy settings as tightly as possible. Don’t let strangers see anything that can be used to verify your identity or that of your children (date of birth, email address, place of work, home address, schools attended, places where you’ve lived, maiden names, etc).
  2. Don’t interact with strangers, and talk to your kids about what it means to accept followers on the various accounts they use.
  3. Since there are bragging rights attached to likes and followers, make sure your family understands what kinds of information can be used to scam you.
  4. Nothing personal: I know people who refer to their children by number on social media, and others who wish happy birthday to their own kids online with everything but his or her Social Security number. Less is more (security) when online.
  5. Never click a link that’s texted to you, and make sure your kids don’t either.
  6. Turn off location services. This feature isn’t necessary on social. Location services tell people — including crooks — where you are and where you aren’t. Don’t use this feature.

Remember, you’re always one click away from trouble. (If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you may want to monitor your credit. You can view two of your scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com and view your annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.)

More on Identity Theft:

Image: BraunS

The post How Staying Off Social Media Can Keep You Safer & Happier This Summer appeared first on Credit.com.

Could Your Campaign Contribution Expose You to Identity Theft?

campaign-identity-theft

Over the past few years, we’ve experienced more ginormous data breaches than any of us can, or would even care to, remember. Against this backdrop, reflect upon the fact that political campaigns know as much, if not more, than advertisers about us — what inspires us and what will move us to vote.

The Wild West

Consider the various kinds of information a campaign crunches to determine who might be persuaded into voting for their candidate and the parallel to advertising and marketing becomes instantly clear.

Many campaigns don’t “only” (and I use the term advisedly) collect things like your name, email address, postal address, phone number, mobile number, credit card information, location, what you’re called on social media sites (your handles) and other contact or identifying information you choose to provide when you go to make a donation or sign up for their emails. There’s also often a cornucopia of data collected when you use a campaign’s site — cookies, your IP address and other digital no-see-ums. While that information would be horrible to leak, it’s nothing compared to the granular details that campaigns purchase from data mining companies.

“This is the Wild West,” Tim Sparapani, a data privacy consultant and former director of public policy for Facebook, recently told the Los Angeles Times, “There is nothing that is off-limits to political data mining.”

They Have WHAT?

This is not just about social media, but it definitely starts there. Data mining companies have long scoured social media to glean information about potential customers, proponents, fans, outraged citizens and any other manifestation of subjective choice “out there.”

There are too many instances to bring up here, but a report in Bloomberg late last year can serve as a general example. It was about a data mining firm that was working for former presidential candidate John Kasich’s Super PAC to create “a ‘social graph’ of possible supporters by scanning high school yearbooks, small-town newspapers, and sports-team rosters.”

If a yearbook is OK in the land of deep dives, what other records could be put to use? Like rose petals in the wind, data is scattered about everywhere, and there is no place too insignificant for a data mining company to potentially send employees to scour for useable bits.

What’s the Big Deal?

What may not be as obvious is that the type of information they collect is often of significant value to hackers and their clientele. Hackers, advertising executives and political operatives constantly search for ways to move a person to take a particular action. With hackers, the action is to click a link that downloads account or sensitive personal information-grabbing malware or otherwise provides access to money or services using your information. Politicians simply want your vote.

Concern that hackers will compromise political campaign databases seems like a prudent response to the current information security landscape, yet disappointingly, at least for those of us in the data security community, the conversation between candidates about security has been largely focused on the “Great Wall of Mexico” and whether or not ISIS should be nuked.

Were a major campaign hack to go down, it would not only create a very unfortunate political situation, but also the information of millions of voters would be at risk for phishing attacks and identity theft. If one of these data-heavy campaign databases were to fall into the wrong hands, there is no end to the scams that creative, sophisticated and persistent fraudsters could pull off with it, or the havoc they might wreak.

The attacks could be based on a familiarity with the target and/or target group—phishing, spearphishing, picking purchases that go unnoticed, cooking up scams involving known networks of friends gleaned from voter data married to social networking accounts — but I digress.

The Solution

As things stand, there is no solution. Data breaches are the third certainty in life, right behind death and taxing presidential elections.

To be completely honest (isn’t that a refreshing concept in a presidential election?) in order to be almost cyber bulletproof, you would have to live in a log cabin on Loon Lake and never associate with anyone or anything. That said, there is a point in the drive to be careful with your information where you have to also live life.

Bottom line: As I mention in my book “Swiped: How To Protect Yourself In a World Filled With Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves” – practice the 3Ms: Do everything you can to minimize your risk of exposure, monitor aggressively so that you know as quickly as possible if you have a problem and have a plan to manage the damage. (You can check for signs of identity theft by viewing your free credit report summary each month on Credit.com.)

Don’t assume that your candidate of choice, no matter how much you think you can trust him or her, actually has your back. Frankly, in this decidedly insecure digital world, they don’t even have their own.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: EdStock

The post Could Your Campaign Contribution Expose You to Identity Theft? appeared first on Credit.com.