Many years ago there was a popular cartoon character named Pogo, who transformed the famous words, “We have met the enemy and he is ours” spoken by Admiral Oliver Hazard Perry following a naval battle into “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo’s version may well apply to the many of us who don’t realize that whenever we put too much information online through social media we are providing information that can be used against us in a multitude of ways. Postings on Facebook and other social media can be used by identity thieves and scammers to learn the answers to your security questions and also provide information to make you a target of spear phishing where you receive an email that appears to come from someone you know or a company with which you do business. Putting personal information such as your birthdate and address on social media makes it easier for an identity thief to steal your identity.
Recently federal prosecutors in Minnesota brought counterfeiting and other charges against 28 people who created counterfeit checks using the banking information contained on checks that have turned up on Instagram photos with the hashtag #myfirstpaycheck. It is a simple matter today to create checks with the account number and bank routing information contained on a check. It is also just as simple for counterfeiters to search Instagram for the popular hashtag #myfirstpaycheck put up by naive new employees.
Certainly no one should take a photo of any check and put it up online or on any social media website. However, you should also limit, as much as possible the personal information you provide online and through social media that in the hands of an identity thief can be used to make you a victim of identity theft. Don’t include your birth date, mother’s maiden name or other personal information on social media that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft. Don’t make an identity thief’s work easy.