On this International Data Privacy Day, we could all use a reminder to focus on what we can control – the extent to which we share private information about ourselves online. We cannot control the fact that there is an entire economy fueling bad actors who spend their entire lives trying to steal our private information. But, we can take basic steps to avoid publicizing information that only makes the bad actors’ lives easier.
On January 25, 2022, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published data on the frequency with which scammers mine social media posts to defraud unsuspecting consumers. According to the FTC, one in four people who reported losing money to fraud in 2021 said the scam started with an ad, post or other message on social media. More than 95,000 people reported losing approximately $770 million due to fraud initiated on social media platforms in 2021. That represents an 18-fold increase over 2017. Scammers use personal details gleaned from social media accounts to make their nefarious activities appear more legitimate. If we all refrain from publicizing those details, we take away an important tool used by bad actors.
We have all turned to social media to stay more connected during the pandemic, and that can be a good thing. We can all do better, however, in limiting the types of information we share online. Take care to review the social media platform’s privacy settings and set restrictions to limit the number and types of people who can view your information online. If possible, opt out of targeted advertising. If you receive a message or post from a “friend” in urgent need and the request smells fishy, pick up the phone and call your friend to confirm the details. Do research on companies before you decide to buy products based on an ad.
In short, be careful out there and let’s not voluntarily give bad actors any more of an advantage.