It's no secret that Instagram is synonymous with cute pet pics. In fact, more often than not, I go on Instagram just to look at snaps of puppies and kittens. In addition, I post plenty of my own pet pictures. Same? Unfortunately, I have some bad news for my fellow pet posters. Posting pet pictures on Instagram could make you vulnerable to fraud, CNBC reported.
If this sounds like a real head scratcher, initially I was right there with you. But apparently, a lot of people use their pets' names as passwords for everything from their phones and computers to their online bank accounts. If you're one of them, making your pets the star of your Instagram means that Fluffy or Fido could unintentionally assist fraudsters who want to steal your identity.
A survey by OnePoll, commissioned by Spanish bank Santander, found that 85% of people under 25 have shared personal deets on Instagram that could leave them open to identity theft. CNBC reported that Santander is placing some of the blame on celeb Instagrammers who regularly post snaps of their four-legged besties and set a bad example for the rest of us regular folks.
Hey, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of ills in society that I think celebs can be blamed for, but I don't think this is one of them. The more likely culprit of accidentally sharing online passwords is simply not knowing any better. While a good rule of thumb is to not share anything on social you wouldn't share on a billboard, the majority of people are used to making everything public even though some things should remain private. Like passwords.
In reference to a previous study of people ages 18-24, Chris Ainsley, head of fraud strategy at Santander, said: "It's evident that one of the pitfalls of their online lifestyles is a culture of over sharing and being careless with sensitive information — and this is leaving them highly vulnerable to scams and fraud."
Santander found that almost 90% of people surveyed have shared sensitive information on social media, including addresses, contact details, birth dates, the names of family members, work and school details, and "less obvious information such as pet names which are often used as ‘memorable questions’ as part of security on websites." Oops.
As someone who has had their identity stolen, I can tell you that it's a huge pain in the ass that can wreak havoc on your life for years. And while I though that I'd been super smart safeguarding my personal information since then, some of the tips CNBC posted from social media expert Jodie Cook made me realize I need to up my game.
Tips to keep your personal information safe from scammers include some things you may not have thought of, like not sharing your full date of birth online. If you've got your birth year showing on Facebook or Twitter, remove it.
If you post a lot of pet pics on Instagram and include the names of said pets, make sure none of your passwords or security questions have anything to do with your pets. Alternatively, don't post the names of your pets on social media at all.
Be careful about sharing details like your middle name or your mother's maiden name, as these are commonly used security questions. While the cat's likely out of the bag about where you were born, don't advertise it online because scammers can use it to steal your identity.
Finally, make sure none of your pictures include any type of sensitive documents. I've seen many a crime show where detectives crack the case using a social media photo that inadvertently contained identifiable personal information, like an address or a passport. Once you know how to stay safe, go a head and post photos of your pets until your heart's content. Just make sure to keeps pets and passwords totally separate, like church and state.