Although social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo offer users entertainment and interaction, many are unwittingly leaving themselves open to identity theft, according to Experian.
The company has devised five simple rules to help protect people from identity theft fraudsters.
The first is to limit the amount of personal information given, such as email address, contact numbers and date of birth, all of which could be used by scam artists. Some people even have nicknames and other details which can also provide clues of passwords to bank accounts.
“The general rule is to be very cautious about how much information you give away and who can see it,” warns the company.
Some social network users feel a temptation to add friends in competition with others. Under no circumstances should people accept friend requests from strangers, and users should also be aware that requests from people they think they know should also be treated with care.
Those that are members of networks can be viewed by anyone in that network so information should be limited and restricted.
Users should never give out passwords, even to friends or partners; Facebook specifically recommends this.
Experian also reminds people that potential employers can, and do, use these sites so information should be factual and comments and photographs should not be offensive.
Finally, if users are worried that information has been compromised through using a social networking site, they can use an online credit monitoring and identity protection service to keep an eye on credit reports, which include details such as loans, credit cards, mortgages and mobile phone contracts.
Find out more about identity fraud