RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – You wouldn’t willingly help a scammer find ways to steal your identity or break into your bank account, but that’s just what many of us do without realizing it.
To keep yourself safe, experts say you need to make your digital footprint less visible to hackers.
Photos of family, pets. and even the inside of your home which are posted on social media are being weaponized by criminals who can figure out more about you than you realize.
“The dog has a chain, and the chain mentions the home address,” said Mykolas Rambus, the CEO of Hush, a digital privacy protection company. “People don’t think of the valuable assets in the background as well. For example, there may be antiques or jewelry.”
Digital photos themselves have metadata embedded, things like your GPS location, date, time.
If you’re going to post photos on social media, narrow your audience.
“Make sure your community is locked down and it isn’t visible to the public at large,” said Rambus.
The way to do that is by changing the viewing settings on your social media platform, choosing an audience you trust.
You also need to limit the information you disclose.
Rambus says people unwittingly put information online that will aid a scammer to commit Identity theft.
“One common thing are bank challenge questions,” he said.
“People give that information away online answering posts like ‘what car did you pass your driver’s exam in,’ or ‘where did you shop for groceries when you were a child.'”
For example, 2.2 million answered the driver’s license post on Facebook and 2.8 million gave away the information about their childhood grocery store in answer to an anonymous Facebook post.
That’s a lot of potential targets for scammers to lock in on.
“Those are the things that can make it easier for a fraudster to imitate you and run with it,” said Rambus.
You also need to check the security settings on your social media platforms frequently.
“A lot of big social media platforms change their privacy policies and settings frequently, and what you thought was locked down is no longer,” said Rambus.
Although every demographic group is susceptible to victimization by hackers, experts say Millennials are the fastest growing category of identity theft and financial crime victims. That is because they put so much out there online and don’t think a lot about social media privacy.