More than 15 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2016
– a 16 percent increase over 2015, resulting in the loss of over $16 billion.
Over the years, social media has changed the internet and the way we interact with people online in more ways than one. While Facebook may have begun as an online space for college students, it’s grown to over 2 billion active users every month in recent years. While Facebook (and other popular social media sites) have increased the way we connect with each other, they’ve also changed the malicious ways our personal information can be stolen.
To understand how well people protect their online identities, we surveyed over 1,500 Americans about the information they share, the social media platforms they see as the riskiest, and what they’re doing to keep their information protected. Curious what kind of information most people share with the world? Keep reading to find out.
Oversharing Yourself Online
To better understand how Americans may be oversharing on their social media, we asked respondents to report on both the sensitivity of specific pieces of information and how accessible that information was through their social media activity.
Of the more than 1,500 Americans polled, many expressed little concern with sharing their full name online. On average, those we surveyed rated the sensitivity of their full names a 2.8 out of 5, and many left it fully available for anyone who wanted to see it. By using your full name, you allow others (like your boss, for instance, or a future employer) to access your online social content easily.
While people were more concerned about their email addresses and phone numbers, more than 1 in 5 people left their date of birth, place of employment, high school and college location, and their relationship status either publicly accessible or available to most. This information can be used against you for phishing, spamming, and even fraud.
When Keeping It Simple Doesn’t Work
Passwords today are connected to far more than our social media accounts – they provide access to personal data, online shopping histories, and even bank accounts. While some websites may require you to make your passwords more complicated (and maybe easier to forget), complex passwords aren’t always better. Studies have shown longer passphrases composed of multiple words are actually harder for encryption programs to crack.
Of those surveyed, nearly 1 in 4 said their usual password contained the name of a pet, and almost 1 in 5 used their name or initials. Of those who used their name or initials to construct their passwords, more than 85 percent made that information accessible through their social media pages. While slightly less than 1 in 10 used the name of their significant other, about 76 percent of those people said this information was publicly available too.
More than two-thirds of participants also told us they always, often, or sometimes used the same password across multiple accounts. Less than 12 percent used a different password for each type of online account.
Risk on Social Media
Of the social media platforms available, more than 3 in 4 participants thought Facebook was the riskiest place for their personal information. While all of those online game invitations may seem like the real torture, some of the most common Facebook hacks and scams last year involved people pretending to be friends or family for various reasons, phishing sites sending emails claiming to be Facebook charging you money for your account, and online giveaway scams. Essentially, if someone says you can get 36 holiday gifts by just buying one, it’s not just too good to be true – it’s illegal.
Nearly 1 in 10 people thought dating platforms were the riskiest, while less than 4 percent of people were concerned about their profiles on either LinkedIn or Snapchat. When it comes to online dating, there are a few simple rules you can follow to stay safe, like conducting background checks on the people you plan to meet, making sure your meeting place is a public location, and telling people where you’re going on every step of the date.
Online sites considered to be the safest were Reddit and YouTube, with nearly 30 percent of respondents telling us they felt their personal information was the least likely to be used against them when visiting the online forum community of Reddit. Reddit had 1.2 billion unique visitors in March 2017.
Location Services and Your Privacy
Residents of some states are more prone to overshare personal information online than others.
According to the more than 1,500 people surveyed, nearly a third of those from Massachusetts and Connecticut frequently shared their locations when posting to social media.
Even if you have your location information set for friends only, there are still a number of scenarios where a stranger could acquire that information, exposing where you are and potentially putting you in a dangerous situation. Location services can let potential thieves and criminals know when you’re not home – leaving your belongings open to attack.
Respondents from Tennessee, Ohio, and Louisiana were the least likely to share their location on social media. Overall, 1 in 10 Americans checked in online from their homes and places of work, and over 30 percent either sometimes, often, or always tagged their location in real time.
Concern Over Personal Information
When it comes to bad password habits, millennials were the most likely to be guilty of using the same password across multiple online accounts. One study found data security, in general, is not a big concern for millennials, and they’re more likely than any other generation to say they believe businesses are keeping their information safe and to be trusting of social media sites.
While more than 1 in 3 millennials were guilty of reusing the same or similar passwords, less than 1 in 5 baby boomers did the same.
Republicans were more likely to reuse passwords than Democrats, and people who worked in manufacturing, were homemakers, and were unemployed had the highest rate of reused passwords. Employees in the arts and entertainment field or those who worked in manufacturing along with technology and retail workers, were the least likely offenders.
Social media isn’t just changing the way we connect with people – it’s changing the world. From health care to business strategies, everyone is finding a way to take advantage of the popularity of social media. According to our participants, the average American may be just a little too comfortable sharing their information online and doesn’t protect their data with quality, hard-to-hack passwords. This can leave both your data and home at risk.
At GetSafe.com, we can put your mind at ease when you’re away from home – regardless of how often you share your location online. With DIY installation, nationwide 24/7 monitoring, and a GetSafe mobile app, we make security and home automation as easy as possible. Regardless of your budget, there’s a home security system that can work for you. Find it online today and get your free quote at GetSafe.com.
We surveyed 1,506 Americans and asked them to answer questions related to their social media habits and their perceptions of digital security. Fifty-five percent of respondents identified as men, 45 percent of respondents identified as women, and less than 1 percent identified as a gender not listed by our survey. Both state and industry analysis were limited to results with at least 25 respondents. The average age of respondents was 34 years old.
Here’s something that’s safe to share. We’d love to see the results of our study published on your site for any noncommercial use. We kindly ask you include a link back to this page so our contributors earn credit for their work.