For fraudsters, identity theft is a full time job, so they’re pretty good at it. They have lots of time to develop tactics for getting your personal and financial information, and social engineering has become one of their favorites.
Social engineering is the manipulation fraudsters use to collect personal information from their victims. There are countless tools that fraudsters use to engage in social engineering, but social media platforms are a popular choice because they are essentially open to the public.
As people become more willing to share information in public forums, criminals enjoy easier access to personal data that can help them build profiles on their victims.
When you consider the amount of information shared freely on social media platforms and dating sites, it’s no wonder fraudsters have gravitated toward them in the search for personal tidbits.
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Think about it. Could someone read through your social media entries and discover what your mother’s maiden name is, the name of your first child, your high school mascot, your first pet’s name? These are pretty common security questions used by financial institutions to determine if the person signing into an account is indeed the owner of the account, and it’s the type of information you might not consider sensitive enough to keep private.
Fraudsters usually start with a piece of valuable information—maybe they found your social security number and/or account numbers in stolen physical or electronic files. Social engineering helps them fill in the rest of your profile so that they can easily pose as you and possibly gain access to your accounts.
Once in possession of your information, thieves can not only get into your accounts, they can use your information to set up new accounts. They could use your information to buy all sorts of things—even a house! And once they’ve made the purchase, it becomes your responsibility to have the information corrected with the vendor or financial organization and with the credit bureau.
Credit card companies, credit unions, and banks will often cover charges associated with theft, but they don’t and can’t cover all charges, particularly the larger ones. To prevent yourself from falling prey to social engineering, you can make some changes in your behavior to reduce access to your sensitive, personal information.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t share sensitive information in your social media accounts. Think before you share.
- Don’t answer any personality profile questions (dating sites love these) that could help fraudsters hack into your accounts.
- Set alerts on your accounts so you know when they have been accessed.
- Review your credit card and credit union/bank statements regularly to make sure all of the charges are legitimate.
- Check your credit report on a routine basis to make sure there hasn’t been any suspicious activity. And if you see it, make sure to report it immediately.
- Should identity theft occur, the Federal Trade Commission offers a step by step brochure helping you recover from identity theft.
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