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Nobody wants to get scammed, but if you use social media, you’ve probably given away more info than you think. Yes, even a cute photo of your cat could help a fraudster access your account and steal your cash.

So read on as we run through how scammers get your details on social media, and the simple changes you can make to boost your security.

Your date of birth

How they find it:

Either your birthday appears publicly on your profile, or they work it out from other things. Public birthday messages from friends, photos of you with birthday cakes and badges, numbers in usernames… these can all give your date of birth away.

Scenario:

Imagine that your birthday is hidden from Facebook, but one of your friends tags you in a photo with the caption ‘Happy 30th Birthday to my best mate’. A scammer can work out your exact date of birth from this post, and use it to guess your passwords or steal your identity.

Advice:

Hide your birthday from your social media profiles, and don’t use any part of your date of birth in usernames or passwords. You could also ask friends not to post birthday messages publicly.

Your address

How they find it:

If you tag the location of your posts, and you often post from the same location, a fraudster will guess that’s where you live. Combine that with a picture taken in front of your house and they’ve got all the information they need.

Other ways that scammers can get your address include region specific usernames (e.g. GeordieJess) and apps which track your location (such as running apps).

Scenario:

Your daily running route starts and ends at home. You use a fitness app which records your runs and shares your route to social media. Anyone that can see your profile can use this to find out where you live, including a fraudster.

Advice:

Be cautious about allowing social media sites to access your location information. And if you’re using apps which track your location, don’t let them access your social media too.  

Your passwords

How they find it:

Unless you use strong passwords which are difficult to guess, everything you post on social media could be a clue to your password. Some examples include: photos of pets, towns you’ve lived in, countries you’ve visited, important dates (such as your wedding day or children’s birthdays), hobbies or interests.

Scenario:

You post a photo on facebook of your dog Bella, a Golden Retriever. If you’re one of the many people who use a pet’s name as a password, a fraudster could get into your account in seconds.  

Advice:

Make all of your passwords different. Use a mixture of capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, and to make it even more secure, use a random sequence of characters or words. And whatever you do, don’t use password123 or any of the other most common passwords.

Answers to your security questions

How they find it:

Sharing where you went to school and where you’ve worked might help you connect with old friends. But fraudsters see it as the final piece of the puzzle to get into your account: the answer to your security questions.

Scenario:

One of your friends tags you in an old school photo with the caption ‘Who remember this? Southampton High School leavers ball 1980’. If you have ‘what school did you go to?’ as one of your security questions, a fraudster will be in your account in minutes.

Advice:

If you have to choose a security question, choose the most obscure one possible. Things like mother’s maiden name, name of first pet, and name of school are quite easy to guess.

Ways you can protect yourself

• Be careful what you share - think twice before posting something which could be used to guess your passwords, date of birth or address.
• Set your privacy settings so that only your followers can see your profile
• Don’t accept unknown friend requests
• Spring clean your friends list – can you really trust that friend of your cousin who you met at a wedding 5 years ago?
• Chat to friends about the security of their profile - fraudsters can work out a lot about you from friends’ posts

And don’t forget that social media isn’t the only way that scammers can get hold of your information, so be alert and follow our top fraud prevention tips:

• Check your credit report regularly to spot if someone has taken out loans, credit cards or accounts in your name
• Set up two-factor authentication for all your logins – this makes it more difficult for fraudsters to get access to your accounts
• Don’t reveal your full password or authentication codes to anyone, even if you think you can trust them

Visit the Take Five website for more advice on staying safe and avoiding scams.

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