What would be worse: having your Facebook history revealed to the world, or being a victim of identity theft?
The answer is (or should be) identity theft. If you think otherwise, you should probably re-evaluate your use of social media. Also, you’re not alone.
In a small survey that is most likely not representative of the population, a third of 18- to 34-year-olds said they’d prefer identity theft over a public dump of their Facebook activities. Millennials gave the identity-theft-over-Facebook answer more than twice as often as the other age groups combined, and despite the fact that only 250 adults took part in this poll, there are a few things worth pointing out.
The responses to this survey, which was conducted by Google for virtual-private-network application provider TunnelBear, indicate that some people don’t understand how damaging identity theft can be. The results also show that many individuals engage in online behaviors they wouldn’t want their parents, employers or the government to see.
It’s true people have lost jobs because of their social media activities, but that’s more often a case of responsibility than privacy. It’s a good policy to refrain from posting something you wouldn’t want others to see.
That rule of thumb applies to securing your identity, too, which is why it’s important to exercise caution when using the Internet.
Here are some things to consider, in case you’re still in the “Not my timeline, take my identity!” camp:
ID Theft Can Destroy Your Credit
If fraudsters use your Social Security number or credit cards to take out loans in your name, those accounts will be on your credit reports, and they could leave trails of high debt and delinquencies. Identity thieves can do a lot of damage in a short period of time, which is why it’s crucial to monitor your credit, online information and bank accounts for suspicious activity.
Recovering from ID theft takes some work, and until everything is resolved, the victim may be dealing with low credit scores based on a fraudulent activities, including a slew of inquiries, new accounts, late payments and high balances on revolving credit accounts.
Bad Credit Follows You Everywhere
If a thief wrecks your credit, you will likely run into serious inconveniences. Credit scores help determine whether you qualify for a mortgage, auto loan, personal loan, credit cards — it’s a long list.
To live a limited financial life because of your own financial missteps is one thing, but you shouldn’t let anyone else make a mess of it for you. Prioritize personal security, and, yes, that includes social media — but know that there are worse things than embarrassing yourself online.
Keep tabs on your credit by pulling your free annual credit reports, checking your bank statements and keeping an eye on your credit scores, which you can do for free with Credit.com’s Credit Report Card. Good habits like this will make it easier to spot fraud, and when it comes to protecting your identity, swift action is the most effective.