Credit: 5./15 WEST
I’m probably going to offend many people, but here is the thing: Posting your pictures and information online is dangerous.
Wait, I’ll explain.
It’s okay to share beautiful moments like Christmas trees, Thanksgiving, and other festive periods with your friends on Facebook and Instagram.
But many people tend to overshare, revealing sensitive details in pictures that shouldn’t be made public.
Some people disclose where they work and their job titles, residential addresses, children’s schools, travel plans, etc.
A photo on your birthday could reveal your date of birth while sharing a picture of a new house gives away where you live.
These images may seem harmless and a way to keep in touch with your followers.
But with every picture and information you share, you’re increasing your online footprint.
This adds to the multitude of data about you online. And that’s not really a good thing.
Here, we’ll discuss why you must beware of the pictures you share and how to protect yourself from fraud.
Reasons Why You Should Regulate the Pictures You Post Online
Below are the dangers of posting your picture and information online:
1. Scammers Might Steal Your Information
If you have a Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat account, there’s a 46 percent chance you’ll be a fraud victim, especially identity theft. And if you’re active on any social media at all, you have a 30 percent higher risk.
Considering how rampant identity theft cases are, these numbers are worrying.
Many social media platforms access your account information before, during, and after installation.
Your profile may also contain personal information like your former school, current job, pets, hometown, number of children, etc.
This makes it relatively easier for hackers to get information about you to commit social media fraud.
In addition, scientists have found that it’s possible to use pictures showing your hands to recreate copies of your fingerprints.
Can you believe that?
So, that “peace sign” picture you shared on social media could be used against you.
2. Employers Now Go Through Social Media Accounts
Many companies do their due diligence before hiring.
And since social media has become a big deal, they want to know how you behave online before hiring you.
No company wants to be left red-faced by an embarrassing picture you shared a few years ago.
It might just be a joke for you, but it could be offensive and put off prospective employers.
3. Photos Reveal Your Location
Most people don’t know about geotagging, so they share pictures directly from their phones to social media.
Geotags make it easy to let people know where your family had that lovely lunch or the breathtaking view from our hotel while on vacation.
It also makes organizing photos in your gallery easy and lets friends know where they can have a similarly enjoyable experience.
However, it also has its risks.
Geotagging causes “social surveillance.” If you use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, there’s a good chance you know about social stalkers.
These creeps use the information you post on social media to follow your movements, habits, and associations.
This makes it easy for them to use publicly available geotagged pictures to determine your present location, where you live, and how you spend your time – or where.
4. Photos Contain Several Private Information
To you, it’s a picture with a group of friends after a night out.
But there is more to the photo than you think.
Besides your name and face, pictures show viewers your friends, birthday, home address, or workplace.
That’s enough information to try to scam you or your friends.
Some of us often use hashtags that are peculiar to a specific group.
For example, hashtags like #ClassOf2005 can make it easier for fraudsters to scan sites pointing to your high school or graduation year. These hashtags may reveal your age range, making it likely for scammers to customize “spear phishing” messages.
Don’t join viral challenges on TikTok or Instagram.
Pictures of your car, plate number, where you shop, etc., shouldn’t be online.
5. Fraudsters Will Have More Pictures of You
A few months ago, I got a message from my neighbor who saw herself on another Instagram page.
There were at least 25 pictures of her doing different things on that account. Some photos of her at home. A few in the garden and when she was out to get groceries. Others in work clothes, and many like that.
Apparently, she was a sugar mommy in another life.
It looked so real and had a few thousand followers already.
Strangely, these were the same pictures she had on her original Facebook and Instagram accounts.
She had shared so many photos of her life.
Remember that with every picture you share online, you’re arming a potential fraudster with a catalog of images.
6. Your Pictures May Be Used for Unapproved Reasons
I bet you won’t want to see your face promoting safe sex ads or selling beer in Thailand.
Who knows? You could also easily become the next meme!
Imagine a few years later; you’re trying to get your life together and have a family and career. But everyone now knows you as the face on an adult website. Or the “crooked face girl.”
Don’t make social media a personal diary of pictures and personal information that people can use without your permission.
7. You May Expose Your Children
For people who like posting their kids online, you may inadvertently put them at risk.
Children are the most likely to be victims of identity theft. But besides fraud, posting your kids’ pictures online, especially in their childhood, could make them feel helpless about their bodies and beliefs.
As kids get older, they might start to feel embarrassed by posts on social media that feature them when they are younger.
Who knows? These pictures may be used to bully them or used on illicit child porn websites.
Posting “the first day of school” pictures may also show stalkers where your kids’ school is or what time they leave home.
The same goes for wishing them happy birthdays online, especially toddlers.
Ensure you don’t share images of your children without their permission. You should also tell other family members and friends not to post your kids’ pictures.
✎ Related: How To Protect Your Child Identity Online ➔
8. Your Pictures Stay Online
I bet you’ve heard the statement, “The internet never forgets.”
The moment it’s on the internet, you no longer have control.
Of course, you might claim copyright, but it’s not easy or cheap to enforce, especially for an average person.
And the damage may have already been done.
Due to cloud storage backups and browser caches, whatever you post will potentially stay there forever.
✎ Related: What Is the Internet of Things? ➔
How Identity Thieves Can Use Your Personal Information
Identity theft is only one of the many dangers of posting your pictures online.
Your personal information may be used to commit financial fraud if cybercriminals can access it.
They might impersonate you to open credit accounts, like credit cards, leaving you on the hook for their purchases.
Identity thieves may also use your information in non-financial scams, like posing as you on dating websites.
The login information to your social media accounts could give fraudsters access to even more information about you if you use a simple password, such as your date of birth or the address where you live.
How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Fraud From Your Photos
Credit: D. Lentz
Although social media is a fun way to keep in touch with family and friends, the world has changed.
There are scammers and creeps everywhere, especially online.
If you must share photos online, below are some ways to ensure you stay safe:
Review Privacy Settings
When using any online platform, make sure you review the privacy settings.
Ensure only your trusted contacts can see the photos you share.
Some social media platforms automatically share your photos with the public. Review these pictures to ensure they don’t contain personal information and be sure to keep your profile secure.
You may want to check the privacy of the pictures you’ve posted before.
Create Stronger Passwords and Activate 2FA
Ensure you create a strong password whenever you sign up for an internet account.
Don’t use the same passwords for multiple platforms. Ensure your passwords don’t reference date of birth, child’s name, favorite pets, home address, or anything password.
Your passwords should be at least 15 characters with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. This makes it harder for potential hackers to break into your account with the information they get from social media posts.
In addition, enable two-factor authentication.
Even if someone guesses your password, they’ll be required to provide other information, such as a code, before accessing your account.
This adds extra protection against phishing, social engineering, and stolen credentials.
Use Strong Antivirus Software
Always use strong antivirus software to protect your devices from malware.
Update your antivirus regularly to ensure it can protect you against the latest threats.
Some good examples are McAfee, Total Protection, Norton, Bitdefender, and Kaspersky Antivirus.
Remove Geotagging and Location Data From Your Pictures
Always remove geotags from your pictures before posting.
If your camera or phone contains Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) data, it can include where the photo was taken.
Turn this function off.
To do this, open the Details tab under the Properties menu. Click the Remove Properties and Personal Information option. Windows will ask if you want to keep the original picture with the data. Select your option and click OK.
Another option is to remove the metadata using software like ImageOptim. This is especially important if you’re using a Mac computer.
You can turn off geotagging on an Android device by doing the following:
- Open Camera
- Tap the settings icon in the three horizontal lines menu.
- Find the GPS tagging or Save Location option and turn it off.
On your iPhone, simply do the following:
- Go to Settings
- Click on Privacy
- Tap Location Services
- Go to Camera and click Off or Never.
Don’t Share Photos Revealing Personal Information
Whether or not your pictures are only viewed by personal connections, don’t share images that reveal sensitive information.
A real scammer might be in your circle.
Roughly 6 out of 10 elder financial scams are committed by relatives.
That’s not even all.
Over a million children are identity theft victims annually. In two-thirds of these cases, the victim knows the perpetrator.
Don’t share media content that reveals your Social Security Number, credit score or transactions, banking information, international passport, or other private details.
Review the pictures of you or your children that your friends may want to share online.
Always review pictures before you hit share. Ensure your photos don’t contain any information that someone with malicious intent can use against you. Review the privacy settings to ensure your pictures aren’t viewable to people you don’t know or trust. Set strong passwords, enable 2FA, and activate antivirus.
Educate your kids on the importance of staying safe from social engineering and not clicking phishing links. Understanding the dangers of posting certain pictures and information online will help you and your family stay safe from potential attacks.
I recommend getting an identity theft protection service like Aura to help you stay on top of your personal information. These services can send you alerts if you or your family members have data online that could be used by scammers or other threat actors.
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