Are you at risk for a social network scam?
Everyone’s buzzing about The Social Network, but here’s something even more buzzworthy: All those wall posts and tweets may be putting your money at risk.
A few weeks ago, a news article in the U.K. warned that “Facebook, Twitter users could face increased insurance premiums.” The problem: A status update about boarding the plane for your two-week vacation to Italy may seem innocuous, but that information can get into the wrong hands and serve as an open invitation to burglars. And this isn’t conjecture—it’s already happened. A couple of weeks ago, New Hampshire police busted a local burglary ring of three men charged with using people’s Facebook profiles to zero in on easy targets. To give you an idea of how successful this strategy can be, the men have been connected to eighteen other burglaries, all triggered by Facebook posts!
Some Facebook and Twitter users reveal their away-from-home status in more subtle ways or even by accident. An excited tourist might post: “spaghetti in Sicily: yum.” Some people set their smart phone apps (like UberTwitter) to use cell tower locations to automatically tell people their location when they post a new update. And of course, with apps like FourSquare, the whole point is to tell people where you are. Neat, but at what cost?
Being too open on social networking sites can even hurt your friends’ wallets. Two people I know told me they got “chatted” on Facebook by friends who said they’d been mugged and were stranded overseas sans passport or money. The friends asked to be wired $500. In both cases, the messages were sent by hackers who had tapped into the friends’ accounts, but the friends were actually on vacation, making the stories more believable. Luckily, neither of these people ended up wiring the money, but they came close. And others have fallen for this scam—last year, a woman in Missouri wired $4,000 to a “friend” in England!
To my knowledge, there’s been no talk of insurance companies in the U.S. raising premiums for social network enthusiasts, but when setting your premium, providers do take into account how likely your home is to be robbed (meaning, how risky a potential customer you are). My take: Monitor your privacy settings and don’t go overboard with the oversharing. You’ll protect your identity and your wallet.
Have you or anyone you know been a victim on social networking sites?