PORTLAND -- Identity thieves may be “following” you on Facebook. But they’re not hoping for “likes” or “friend requests.” Instead, they’re trolling for your personal information.
Let’s face it, your personal information is not that personal anymore. Friends, family, birthdays and job histories are all over the social media sites and experts say identity thieves are watching and waiting.
“I do have a lot of information out there. I mean, I want people to be able to get a hold of me, I want people to send me birthday messages,” said Venus Winkler, a social media user and marketer.
Winkler said there are so many websites out there, and so much business being conducted online, that it’s tough to keep personal information private.
Others agree, including Daniel Blake, who uses social media but is not very active on Facebook.
“I do have my birthday posted, yeah... that is something I might think twice about,” he said.
Experts say you should limit the personal information you post because identity thieves will not think twice about taking it, putting it together piece-by-piece and building their own profile containing your personal and financial information.
Katherine Kisiel is the Public Relations Manager for the Better Business Bureau of Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. She said information you may not think is vital can be damaging to your security.
“We're talking about personal information that might confirm your financial identity. So let's say your mother's maiden name or your birthday, especially the year of your birthday, also your hometown.”
And those postings can be a payday for cyber crooks. Your name, birthday, hometown, mother’s maiden name and birthplace can be a great starting point for identity thieves to steal your information. And the online sites that ask for it are everywhere.
“Your name, what you like, what your favorite color is, your mother's maiden name, what state you were born in, wherever you go online they're going to ask you that personal information,” said Winkler.
But that doesn’t mean you have to give the information out. In fact, according to KGW tech expert Brian Westbrook, you shouldn’t.
“There are ways cyber-crooks can get the basics, can get a small profile of you and then build upon that, add information, add layers of information and then that's where the danger really sets in,” he said.
And the danger is, it seems harmless. A birthday wish, hometown pride, family connections. Not exactly the first things that pop into your head when thinking about protecting your identity.
Blake agrees and says he’ll now reconsider.
“I might, go yeah, check out how the security is set up in Facebook. It's never crossed my mind,” he said.
And if your information is already out there in cyberspace, Kisiel said you can still make adjustments to keep your personal and financial information private.
“You can customize your site to see who can have access to that information,” he said.