What Happens When Your Identity is Stolen on Social Media?

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Reader’s Digest shares more than 35,000 Canadians are victims of identity theft every year. In a survey of a thousand online respondents in Canada, 17 percent said they corresponded with someone who faked their identity, and 8 percent experienced someone gaining access on their social media accounts without their permission.

Unfortunately, this pattern of social media identity theft happens a lot as users share their lives on social media. In doing so, they unknowingly set themselves up as easy targets for cyber identity thieves.

When you share too much information about yourself on social media, what happens?

Social Media Identity Theft

Similar to more serious cases of identity theft that involves stealing your credit card information, social media identity theft exists— and it may severely tarnish your reputation online. Thieves may use your identity on social media platforms to fool people, whether to engage them romantically or to commit fraud.

Most cases of stolen identity on social media involve thieves faking their online identities to lure other people into a relationship with them. They mislead unsuspecting victims into engaging with them romantically, using the face, name, and identity of someone else. This is what’s known as “catfishing.”

Online thieves take advantage of online dating and “catfish” people into relationships. They may also coerce these people into granting them sexual favors. They become sexual predators, threatening their victims to release their sexually explicit photos if they don’t give in. Such scenarios may open you up for probable lawsuits if the victim presses charges, using data from social media website archives to strengthen their case against you.

Cyber identity thieves can also use your social media identity to commit fraud. They can sell products pretending to be you, asking others for money, only to leave them hanging after getting paid. 

When you overshare on social media, you’re unwittingly giving thieves all the “ammo” they need to hack into your account. All they would need is your name, your birthday, and even just the name of your pet, because these details usually figure in passwords

Identity thieves can use your online identity in a number of ways that not only harm other people, but also tarnish your reputation. What can you do to protect yourself from social media identity theft?

Strengthen Your Defences 

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You can’t fully prevent social media identity theft, but you can strengthen your defences against these attackers to protect yourself. First, determine if you’ve been hacked. Early signs include changes in your old posts (and sometimes the deletion of some posts), changes in the number of followers, and log ins from different devices.

Take the necessary measures to ensure no one gets into your account. Set your account to privacy setting. Change your passwords regularly by setting a date. And make your passwords longer, stronger, and harder to determine by clever hackers. Then opt for the two-factor authentication and hard to answer account reset questions.

When using public WiFi or surfing on public domains, don’t send out sensitive information. These domains are not secure, making it easy for hackers to enter their servers. Be mindful of which websites you access, and never save your passwords when you use this to log in to your social media accounts.

Social media has become an essential part of connecting and communicating. But if you post your entire life for everyone to see, you’re making yourself susceptible to the dangers of identity theft.

Choose who you want to share your posts to, and keep sensitive information private. Check and increase your privacy and security settings on all of your social media accounts. Use social media responsibly to avoid incidents of social media identity theft from happening to you.