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Thousands lose money through social media hacks – how you could be at risk

One in five young people have had their accounts hacked at some point, and the information you're sharing which could put you at risk might surprise you. 

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A recent survey has found that thousands of young people have had their social media accounts hacked, and that one in nine of these incidents led to the victim or a friend losing money.

The survey, conducted by Nationwide Building Society, reached over 1,000 16-25 year olds in the UK.

Hackers have been known to take over online accounts and even steal money just by piecing together common personal information people have shared.

If fraudsters manage to gain access to an individual’s social account, they can buy things online just by using the account as identification.

With 83% of respondents saying they know someone who posts personal information about themselves online, what unlikely posts could put you at risk of scams?

The information you're sharing that could put you at risk

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We're accustomed to sharing most of our lives on social media – from birthdays to holidays, special occasions and graduation snaps.

But while these may seem trivial to you, certain pieces of information are the only recipe a fraudster needs to be able to get into your accounts or pose as you.

  1. Your date of birth – Think about how many times companies use your date of birth as a form of verification online. With 50% of people sharing their birthday on social media, companies are moving away from doing this now, but it's a piece of information about yourself that you're never going to be able to change, so it's best to keep it safe
  2. Your current location – 56% of respondents said their friends share their current location online. However tempting it is to check in online at a swanky restaurant or gorgeous holiday destination, don't forget that you're alerting potential thieves that you're away from home
  3. Holiday snaps – Like the point above, sharing photos of yourself sunbathing on a beach in Spain (while you're away), can let people know that your house is empty
  4. Pictures of your bank card – This one sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people take a snap of their brand spanking new card when it arrives in the post. With your card number and expiration date hackers can do pretty much anything
  5. Your bank balance – Ever snapped a photo of your hideous overdraft, or the glorious moment your student loan finally drops in your account? Even if you think you've cropped out all the important information, you're straying into dangerous territory here.

While ‘over-sharing' is a big problem when it comes to online security in young people, another issue is a lack of precaution when it comes to the security of devices.

Over half of respondents said they have passwords for their online accounts saved in their phones, while 25 percent admitted their bank details are saved in their web browser.

How does hacking happen?

More than two fifths of those who have been hacked admitted they had no idea how it happened.

A quarter of respondents said their social media accounts have been hacked after clicking on a link from a friend that turned out to be malicious.

However, many people only realised something was wrong when suspicious activity started happening on their account.

This often materialised in messages being sent to friends from their account that they had no idea about, or personal details being changed.

Unfortunately, fraudsters can buy our passwords very cheaply.

Earlier this year it was revealed that login details for Facebook and other social media accounts are sold for only $5.20 (£3.89) each on the dark web.

Getting access to someone’s Facebook then allows the fraudsters to get into hundreds of other apps, as Facebook allows thousands of third party apps to plug into its social network and then grab data from its users.

This includes anything from popular services like Spotify, to more niche quiz apps and games.

People use their Facebook accounts to log in to these other apps, so if a hacker gets their hands on your Facebook details, they can automatically access all these too.

How to protect yourself

LinkedIn privacy

Credit: Becky Stern – Flickr

When it comes to sharing information about yourself online, it's important to always check yourself and think about how the information could be used by fraudsters in identify theft.

With online hacking on the rise, the government's Take Five campaign offers five key pieces of advice when it comes to tackling fraud.

  1. Never click on a link in an email or text that you don’t recognise.
  2. If you’re ever contacted asking for personal information do not provide it under any circumstances. Contact the company who appear to be contacting you by their official phone number or email address.
  3. A bank will never ask you for your PIN, password, or to move money to another account so if this happens ignore the message and contact your bank using official contact details.
  4. Change your privacy settings on Facebook so only your accepted friends can see your updates.
  5. Think carefully before you share personal information. There’s no need to be worried about generally being on social media, but just consider whether certain personal information needs to be shared or whether it’s better to keep it to yourself.
  6. Use strong passwords, don’t write them down anywhere, and don’t leave accounts logged in.

If you still want to brush up on your cyber security further, here are 32 ways you can avoid being hacked.

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