The risk of oversharing

Aug 30, 2018
Have you ever considered the unexpected consequences of oversharing on social networking sites and how easily you can become a victim of fraud?


While Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are a great way to stay connected, we sometimes overshare information about ourselves which can be invaluable to fraudsters – and we’re not talking about your latest haul from Penney’s or the most recent Off the Ball podcast.

Have you ever considered what information you’re inadvertently sharing? Think about the basic personal information that helps build your profile and potentially gives a fraudster enough information to either steal your identity or hack into your online banking. It might sound far-fetched, but it’s easier than you think.

Social media is the fraudster’s new best friend. They use it to advertise fake goods that will probably never arrive or post adverts to bring you to fake websites to get your personal and financial information, which they can then either use themselves or sell on the dark web. But what about the information you post yourself such as email addresses, where you’re currently located, birthdays of family members or travel plans? You may think this information is worthless, but the reality might surprise you. Personal data about millions of internet users is sold on the dark web all the time.

Think about it...

What information do you inadvertently share online? Your name, date of birth, pictures of your cute dog Bob, where you went to school or college, and your phone number? These are just basics, but let’s take it one step further.

If, for instance, you’re connected through social media to cousins, this could give a fraudster your mother’s maiden name. Similarly, if you’ve posted your CV on a business social media site, this could potentially tell a fraudster what day you get paid, particularly if you work for a large company. And that’s just the beginning.

Your photos give clues about your hobbies, your holiday, your personality, your home. Life events such as engagements, weddings, babies and even retirement dates all build a picture of who you are. Travel plans show that you’re out of the country. What’s hidden in the background of some of your photos that might give even more information about you.

Each Facebook timeline is a story about a person. The more you dig into the timeline, the more facts you find. While you see a nice picture of a night out with your friends, fraudsters see the answers to your security questions for online banking, possible passwords and enough information to steal your identity to use it for multiple frauds.

Data protection

New rules known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in May 2018 to give greater protection to how the personal data of citizens in the EU is used. While these rules bring tighter regulation, we must stop and think how much we are willingly to put out in the public domain without even realising it.

A recent trend has seen fraudsters trawl the Twitter accounts of companies such as banks and mobile phone companies. When a customer posts a query, such as having problems with their network, the fraudster seizes this opportunity. They will contact the customer and pretend to be calling from the company to follow-up on their post to ensure that their issue has been resolved. They will ask you to confirm certain details and before you know it, you’ve handed over your personal information. Be wary of any unsolicited calls following a post on social media.

Protect yourself

FraudSMART is a fraud awareness initiative developed by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland in conjunction with the banking sector to help consumers recognise and prevent fraud. Here are our top tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud through social media use:

  • Think before you post. It’s not what you post on one social media channel, but across all channels that allows a fraudster to build your profile;
  • Be very careful when making friends on social networking sites. Make sure you know the person and that it’s their profile;
  • Do you really need to check in or tag? When you say that you’re somewhere, you also send out the signal that you’re not at home. Given that your house address is not difficult to find using the social networking sites, anyone can make a trip to your house when they know you’re somewhere else;
  • Use appropriate privacy settings on your social media accounts;
  • Don’t share personal information in response to a posting (e.g. competitions or quizzes);
  • If a link appears on your social media page/wall that you don’t recognise, delete it immediately;
  • If you receive an unusual request from a friend (e.g. a new friend request from somebody you’re already friends with or who says that they’re in an emergency), contact them by phone and verify that it’s them;
  • Change your password regularly and choose passwords that are not easily identifiable;
  • Never give card details or make a payment based on an offer received through social media. Independently verify its legitimacy and ensure that the website is secure; and
  • Pay attention to your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For more information on common frauds and tips to protect yourself, visit where you can find a host of information and resources, and sign-up for fraud alerts.