How Social Networks are Used for Identity Theft


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The prevalence of identity theft appears to be increasing as technology continues to move forward. The easy ability of accessing the Internet has helped a lot of individuals steal the identities of unsuspecting victims. The rampant use of fraud has assisted these criminals in obtaining information about others that they otherwise would not have any access to.

Internet Fraud Schemes

Internet fraud occurs over a variety of platforms, including websites, chat rooms and social networks. Many victims are minors. Online deception uses the Internet to help induce fraudulent solicitations and conduct deceptive transactions. Common places to lure in victims include email, message boards, forums, chat rooms and social networking sites.

Often, these criminals attempt to acquire personal private information, including the Social Security number, financial account information, credit card number and date of birth.

Social Security Fraud

One common way that criminalizes victimize others is by stealing their Social Security Number and using it for their own benefit. They may reroute benefits to themselves in this manner. In some instances, children are the beneficiaries of such accounts and may have them stolen by individuals when they engage in communications under their parentsí radar, such as in social networking sites, email or chat rooms. Another type of fraud that may occur is someone may work under another personís Social Security number and not pay required taxes. This can result in the real person being pursued for unpaid taxes.

Prevalence of the Problem

Children are particularly susceptible to being lured into these schemes. Online experts estimate that nearly 41 percent of American children under the age of 18 have received a request from an anonymous person to add them as a friend on a social networking site. Additionally, 63 percent of minors have replied to an online scam or responded to spam.

Preventing Identity Theft

The most important way that parents and others can help is by taking steps to prevent identity theft. Parents must be ever vigilant in protecting their children in this way. They should monitor their childrenís use of social networking sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Additionally, they should require their children to provide their username and password for these accounts. They should also look for duplicate accounts in case their children only use the one that parents supervise as a dummy account while actively engaging on another account. Knowing that a child is constantly on a social networking site but that his or her status has not been updated in months is often a red flag that he or she has other accounts.

Parents can help change the privacy settings on their childrenís account so that unknown individuals do not have access to their children. This can also help limit the amount of information that the public can see about the child. Parents should also be aware of the various ways that children may be able to access the Internet, such as use at school, at their friendís house or through many portable gaming devices. Additionally, special apps often help children hide activity, so parents should be current on the latest trends.

Parents should also help educate their children about the dangers of having a presence online. They should teach their children safe ways to be online and dangers to avoid. They should instruct their children not to give out personal information on social networking sites, to disengage location services that pinpoint their exact location and to use a code word that is unique to the family in case anyone tries to insinuate themselves into the childís life. Special educational campaigns help provide a foundation on these issues. Parents may contact their local school or library to get information on available resources.

Parents should also follow these strategies themselves. They should also be cautious about becoming entangled with a romantic partner online and giving gifts or information out to strangers who may use it for nefarious purposes.

When Identity Theft Occurs

If identity theft occurs, it is important to take immediate steps to try to mitigate the damage. The theft should be reported to the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration can conduct a review to determine if someone has amassed earnings on the victimís record or acquired benefits to which the thief was not entitled to. An individual can also review his or her earnings record online or by submitting a form. He or she should also pull a credit report to see if there is any suspicious activity.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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