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Be Smart with Social Media, Protect Your Finances

Social media is fun. You can keep in touch with friends and relatives, as well as make new business connections. However, you do need to be careful. Your social media profile can provide scammers with personal information, as well as provide banks and other financial service providers with information that allows them to build a consumer profile.

Remember: No matter your privacy settings, there is still information that others can see — and use against you.

Sharing Personal Information Online

Identity thieves can put together a convincing profile of you, just using information scrounged on social media. Your name. Your birthday. Indeed, you might even think you are safe by only listing the day and month of your birth, instead of listing the year. But have you shared your age? Did you join a group for your high school graduating class? Does your online resume list your college graduation date? If so, scammers can use the information to figure out what your birth year was.

Using your name and birth date, it’s possible for identity thieves to pose as you. If you share information about your parents (including using apps that share connections), that can be used against you. Information about your kids, and their birthdays, as well as pet names, can be used by hackers interested in guessing your passwords. If you are using personal information in your passwords, and you share information over social media, others might be able guess those passwords.

Getting Scammed

Another problem is that scammers can be quite convincing with information they find online. In some cases, it’s possible to track who your friends are, as well as some of your conversations. One of my friends, whose cell phone number was listed on a social media site, received a text message from a “friend” who has spent time with him in a foreign country. The message seemed convincing, even though the text came from another number. The “friend” claimed to be stuck in the foreign country, after being robbed, and that money needed to be wired.

Luckily, my friend thought to check, and called a more reliable phone number. The deception was discovered, and no money changed hands, luckily. However, others aren’t so fortunate. So many people share information, without thinking, online, and that means that it is fertile ground for people to pretend to be your loved ones, needing help, and looking for money. If you aren’t careful, you can be taken in.

Financial Services Companies Could Be Profiling You

Another issue is that, increasingly, lenders and others that provide financial services are starting to look on social media for information about consumers. Banks are profiling [3] certain behaviors, and some are even performing online searches — just to see what you’ve been saying online about how you spend your money.

Even if your social media activity doesn’t result in you being turned down for a loan, it can prevent you getting a job. Increasingly, employers are looking online for information about potential employees, and what you post on social media, and on blogs, could be used in a hiring decision, affecting whether or not you get a new job, or even whether or not you keep your current job.

Think before you post. Remember that, social media is designed for sharing. There’s no such thing as true privacy whenever you post online.

(Photo: ivanpw [4])