Banks are warning that they might not offer reimbursements to victims of identity theft if the information used to steal their identity was irresponsibly displayed on a social networking site, making it easy to obtain.
Equifax, a credit ratings agency, has carried out a survey which revealed disturbing figures about the number of people who publish personal information on social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace, where information such as a date of birth, mother’s maiden name, address and phone number, is easy to find for fraudsters who can then use it to open new accounts in the victim’s name.
Such websites do give users the option to hide such information to people without privileged access to their profiles, but Equifax found that about 30 per cent of internet socialites do not use this function to protect their identities.
Some 10.8 million users of sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Friends Reunited, expose themselves by publishing personal information; 87 per cent post their full name, 38 per cent disclose their date of birth, 27 per cent reveal their place of birth and more than a quarter publish their work and education histories.
The survey also found that 65 per cent of users make their email address public, which makes them an easy target for phishing fraudsters who send bogus emails in an attempt to gain personal information such as banking details.
At a recent conference about identity fraud, Tony Neate, managing director of a Government run organisation called Get Safe Online, warned: “Your date of birth and where you live is enough for someone to set up a credit card in your name. So whilst most people wouldn’t give this information to a stranger in real life, they will happily post it online where people they don’t know can see it.”
Neil Munroe, External Affairs Director at Equifax said that “What people don’t seem to realise is how valuable this information is. The fact is these sites can act like a directory for fraudsters.”
Jim Hodgkins, managing director of CreditExpert, an online credit monitoring and identity fraud protection service from Experian, commented: "Many people do not realise that fraudsters can use the information on these sites to guess passwords and PIN numbers which could give them access to bank and credit card accounts.
"As fraudsters build up information on potential victims they can try to impersonate them by compromising their existing accounts or taking out new lines of credit. If people are concerned about identity fraud, the first thing they should do is check their credit report to ensure that no fraudulent applications for credit have been made in their names."
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