It can be tempting to post details of our lives on social media and message boards, but some things are better left unshared. If certain pieces of personally identifiable information end up in the wrong hands, you could fall victim to identity theft, phishing, or other types of fraud. By some estimates, nearly 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year. Here are seven things you should keep off of social media to better protect your money, privacy, and identity, brought to you by Mental Floss and Discover.
1. Your phone number
By using reverse lookup services, hackers can plug in your phone number and get ahold of something even more valuable: your address. It’s one of the key pieces of the puzzle that can be used to compromise your identity.
2. Your home address
Not only does posting your address on social media open you up to robbers, it also increases your risk of identity theft. Once someone has your full name and address, they can search different databases and find additional information about your phone number, employment history, marriage and divorce records, and more. With enough information, they can open up a credit card in your name or steal money from your existing accounts.
3. Pictures of your passport or driver’s license
It can be fun to show off your new passport or driver’s license photo, but doing so online can be dangerous. When you post a photo of your ID on your social media accounts, you could be handing a thief the details they need to steal your identity.
4. Your hometown and full date of birth
If you list your hometown and birthday on social media, you may want to consider deleting these details, or at the very least, removing your birth year. That’s because thieves can use this information to predict your social security number. Historically, only four of the digits have been random; the first three are based on geographic location (most likely where you were born), and the next two are based on birth years. With a bit of trial and error, the code can be cracked.
5. Your financial information
Credit and debit card details are among the more obvious examples of what not to post online, but you might be surprised by what hackers can achieve with a little bit of information about your personal finances. Things like paychecks, bank balances, and retirement account numbers are items that are best kept private.
6. Answers to your password security questions
You probably won’t be posting a cheat sheet of answers to your password “hint” questions anytime soon, but you may be revealing this information in less obvious ways. If you’ve ever mentioned your mom’s maiden name in a Mother’s Day tribute, posted a cute photo of your first family pet (with little Daisy’s name in the caption), or taken a quiz on social media that asks a ton of personal questions (like the name of your first grade teacher or the make of your first car), you might be giving out information that can help hackers gain access to your personal accounts.
7. Clubs or other affiliations
The more someone knows about your affiliations and interests, the easier it is to launch a successful phishing scam. This could take the form of an email that appears to be from an organization you volunteer for, but is actually a scammer attempting to get more personal information off of you. To better protect yourself from these types of scams, considering making this information private on social media.
There are a lot of ways your personal information can end up in the wrong hands, but Discover can help. With Free Social Security number alerts, Discover is monitoring thousands of Dark Web sites and will alert you if your Social Security number is found—it’s free for cardmembers who sign up. Learn more at Discover.