“Beware what you share” warns new CIFAS guide on social media usage

People are being warned by CIFAS – the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service – of the consequences of sharing too much information on social media platforms.

‘Beware What You Share’ is a new publication designed to highlight the often unexpected dangers of posting too much information online through social networking sites such as Facebook. From pointing out what a fraudster will see when someone posts their holiday details through to understanding privacy settings on popular social networking sites, ‘Beware What You Share’ points out some of the common dangers and encourages individuals to think about how information might be used by those who are not in their close circle of friends or family.

“With a new academic year in its infancy, and the festive season looming large on the horizon, the latter part of the year is invariably one where younger people, for example, will be meeting new acquaintances and creating friendships that will last a lifetime,” stated Richard Hurley, communications manager at CIFAS.

“Social media is now an essential part of that whole process, of course, but in the same way that you wouldn’t advertise all of your personal details in the pub to a group of people you have not long known, you also need to be very careful that you don’t share far too much information in the online space.”

CIFAS is urging people to be aware in terms of the information they post on social media platforms

CIFAS is urging people to be aware in terms of the information they post on social media platforms

The second publication in a planned series designed to educate young people about fraud and how to protect themselves, this new document has already been sent to universities and colleges and is available online.

The aim is not to stop social media from being used, but rather to educate young people around the potential risks they’ll face by effectively ‘living their life in public’. The guide contains eight examples of ‘seeing what a fraudster might see when looking at your social media profiles’, from highlighting that someone is away from home and that their house is empty through to where they work and details of those companies with which they have online accounts. Each small piece of information can be used to create a much larger picture, in turn increasing an individual’s chances of falling victim to fraud.

“Ask yourself, would you reveal all of this information in one chat in the pub?”

“The pressures on young people – to fit in, to socialise, to make friends and so on – are immense,” added Hurley. “Social media is undoubtedly the easiest way to do all of this, but it’s worth remembering something. Would you – in a pub, with people you were only just getting to know – tell them all about your address, holiday plans, shopping habits and the rest? No. You would not open yourself up so quickly.”

Hurley concluded: “‘Beware What You Share’ highlights very succinctly how putting too much information online is the equivalent of telling a stranger everything about yourself at a first meeting. The majority of people are, of course, simply wanting to connect and be friends, but individuals need to be aware that there are some people who are just waiting to use any information that’s revealed.”

CIFAS provides the UK’s most comprehensive databases of confirmed fraud data as well as an extensive range of fraud prevention services to over 300 organisations operational across the public and private sectors.

Member organisations share information in order to prevent fraud and emanate from a variety of sectors including banking, grant giving, credit card provision, asset finance, retail credit, mail order and online retail, insurance, telecommunications, factoring, share dealing, vetting agencies, contact centres and insurance brokering sectors.

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