She’s a gorgeous, glamorous blonde – but that doesn’t mean Lily Thomas is a serial WAG who’s dated four footballers and entered Miss Scotland. Or rather, she wasn’t until a fraudster stole her Facebook pictures and created an entirely false identity around them on Twitter, sharing invented adventures with the online community.
“She hasn’t stolen my identity for financial gain but this is just as sinister,” says Ms Thomas, a single barmaid from Wales, who has now reported the incident to the police– and spread the truth via national newspapers.
But things could have been a lot worse. Facebook is arguably a favourite hunting ground for identity thieves in search of personal information that will enable them to impersonate an individual and borrow money in their name, causing financial havoc that can result in a ruined credit score, massive bills and months of time wasted trying to set the record straight.
And with more than a billion people around the world using Facebook every month and other social networks pulling in millions more, there are plenty of potential victims out there. Here’s how to avoid becoming one of them.
It is best not to share information that could be used to hijack your identity, such as your full name (it’s safest to hide behind a username), address, contact numbers or date and place of birth.
Keep financial information to yourself – don’t tell the world where you bank, what credit cards you’ve got or when and where you’re trying for a loan.
Don’t accept random Friend requests – make sure you really do know anyone you accept into your network. Even true friends may give away details about your life that you’d rather not share.
Even if your privacy settings exclude anyone but Friends, their networks will be able to see some of your posts too, as will members of any groups you join.
Information that you use for passwords and PINs – children’s or pets’ names, anniversaries and birthdays, for example – should remain private.
Never give out your password, even to allow your family to look at your photos or check your messages while you’re away. It’s designed to protect you and your information, so use it properly.
Take steps to protect your ID with a web monitoring service such as CreditExpert. If personal information falls into the wrong hands, within minutes, the data can be used to access your accounts, and can be bought and sold in underground forums around the world. A service like CreditExpert’s Web Monitoring can alert members by text or email at the first signs that their details have been compromised. It’s free to take a 30-day trial of CreditExpert.