Whether you got a new job, new digs or just want to post a cool selfie, chances are you’ve shared what you’ve been up to on social media.
Communication channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram make sharing information fast and easy.
Sharing what you’re doing might sound innocent, but your friends and followers aren’t the only ones paying attention. Social media hackers are also taking interest in your updates to see what they can exploit. Something as simple as sharing your phone number with a friend on Facebook could be used by social media hackers.
“Once information is posted to a social networking site, it is no longer private,” said Efrat Cohen, a private investigator and an identity theft risk management specialist with Global Intelligence Consultants. “The more information you post, the more vulnerable you may become. Even when using high security settings, friends or websites may inadvertently leak your information.”
To help you play it safe, here’s a list of things you should never share on social media:
Your phone number
You wouldn’t broadcast your phone number to complete strangers, so why would you share it on social media?
According to Jeff Bernstein, managing director of T&M Protection Resources in New York, social media hackers want phone numbers because they are unique identifiers that typically last a long time.
Hackers can type your phone number into a Facebook search to find your profile page if you have it listed, Bernstein said. This could lead to theft, fraud and misrepresentation. Hackers might also bypass security and use your phone number as a caller ID to send text messages that ask recipients to unknowingly click on a malware link, according to MarketWatch.
Your home address
To avoid burglars showing up at your home would be one reason not to share your home address on social media. However, social media hackers aren’t looking to just rob your home — they’re out to get everything you’re worth.
“Addresses may be leveraged by attackers to create more convincing and effective phishing schemes that can ultimately lead to identity theft, credit card fraud and other misuses that usually deal a costly blow to the end user compromised,” Bernstein said.
Additionally, home addresses are often used by banks to verify your identity. And as Cohen cautioned, reverse lookup services can supply anyone with your home address with a phone number, and vice versa.
Your new credit card
Even though it should be a no-brainer, some people become overly excited about receiving a new credit card and end up sharing a picture of it on their social media accounts. Doing this is simply handing social media hackers exactly what they want. Sharing your credit card info gives hackers easy access to your financial accounts.
Hashtags make it easy to follow a conversation on social media sites like Twitter. But be careful what you hashtag: Social media hackers are watching your every move.
Sharing too much information about yourself or your whereabouts can be quite simple with hashtags.
You also have to pay attention to user hashtags. Bernstein said a hacker might create a fake user profile to generate interest and followers through the use of social media postings that project popular hashtags. “Once the user follows or connects with the attacker they are now within arms-length of a dubious URL, watering hole, attachment and many other types of malicious payloads,” he said.
Where you’ve checked in
Although it’s fun and easy, checking in to your favorite places on Foursquare, Facebook or Twitter isn’t very smart. In fact, it would be wise not to check in, as social media hackers will know where you are — or where you aren’t.
“This notifies hackers that you will be using your credit card in different locations, making it easier to post transactions that would otherwise be unusual,” said Morgan O’Mara, content coordinator at Record Nations, a document management and security company.
How to avoid hackers
“Over 80 percent of all of successful data thefts that occurred last year began with a social engineering exploit of some kind,” Bernstein said. To avoid social media hackers, there are simple steps you can take. Start by hardening your public presence on social media and by stripping any private information from your accounts. This should include your birthday, Social Security number, banking information and some other listed items, Bernstein said.
“Hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated and are now seeking to develop trusted relationships with their prey, which allows them to collect more and more information about their target prior to actually compromising them,” he said.