You may enjoy Facebook, but Identity Thieves do too!

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Websites that keep you in touch with your friends and help to build your online networking community are becoming more and more popular. While the popular networking site Facebook was originally intended to provide students with a popular hangout allowing them to chat and connect with other students,  it has grown into much more than that. A report recently released by iStrategyLabs pointed out that while the number of Facebook's high school and college age users may have decreased, the 55 and older crowd have increased.  Kids and adults in record numbers visit Facebook to keep in touch with friends, families and create new friends and business allies through networking. But just like anywhere else on the Internet, if you deem a site helpful and frequent it often, identity thieves will too. (See video below)

Websites that want you to enter your login and password are just the place for ID thieves to hang out.  We all fall into habits online, especially when it comes to logins and passwords.  And for the sake of simplicity, often use the same login and password for a variety of sites.   Which means your Facebook account may have a login in common with places like your PayPal account, your bank account, Twitter or other social networking sites. Not a great idea.

If you think no one has noticed, think again.  Identity thieves count on consumer laziness, and they capitalize on it. .
Thieves are becoming more and more tech savvy as they continue to find creative ways to gain your trust -and your data. That's their job -and they're good at it! A growing number of identity theft cases are thanks to newer cyber "phishing" scams where thieves capture someone's information by tricking the user to reveal passwords.  With logins and passwords in hand, the thieves can then proceed to clean out whatever accounts they're able to quickly access.  And if your login and password are the same for every account, you can see where you would be in trouble.

Facebook, with over 200 million users, is considered to be prime 'phishing" territory for thieves. In the past, phishers have used compromised accounts to send a malicious link to the person's "friend" list.  When the friend clicks on the link, they see what looks like a Facebook login screen but is in fact the phisher's way of capturing any login and password entered into it.

While this is not a new technique from the phishing community, it is often overlooked by those of us enjoying a social networking site, such as the popular Facebook site.  According to Kevin Haley, a director on Symantec's security response team, "People are very wary of email [phishing attacks]. They've begun to catch on.  But they don't have their antenna up when it comes to social networking."

Follow a few simple rules to avoid becoming an identity theft statistic:

Create a unique, random password for every site you sign up to join.

Don't use any publicly known information to create a password -thieves can string that information together and easily crack your password.

Change your password if you have any hint that your access has been compromised.

Never reply to emails from someone you do not know, including businesses.  They could be trying to capture your information and use it against you.

Do not click on links embedded in emails.

Do NOT wire money if asked to do so online. Many scams involve requests to wire money. 

The thing is -an educated consumer is an empowered consumer. We can't (and shouldn't) stop frequenting social networking sites. While surfing the web and networking-we simply need to be alert to the various cyber threats and predatory practices looming online.

Take the necessary steps to proactively guard your identity before anything happens. Review your bank and credit card statements, credit reports and consider placing free fraud alerts -and renew them every 90 days -or you are not planning on obtaining credit, a job, car or housing that may require a creditor reviewing your credit report, you can pay the credit bureaus to freeze your credit.

If you don't want to take the time required to protect your identity, and don't want deal with the time consuming frustrations involved to restore your identity if stolen, then you might want to consider doing what I did and for a nominal fee you can hire a company such as LifeLock, to do it for you.

Take charge of your identity before someone else does.

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