You might be surprised at how much financial information you share online — and who has access to it.
Our digital world is full of information. Hop online and you can find out about almost anything instantly. We also have the ability to connect to others and share what's happening in our lives.
Unfortunately, with so much information digitized and available online, it's also easy for almost anyone to find out about you. You might want to be wary about the information that you put out online, as well as be aware that it's possible for others to gain access to your personal information.
The video above (h/t Upworthy) offers some chilling insights about how easy it is for others to access personal information about you. And it's not just about your best friend's name or how much you had to drink last night.
Identity Thieves and Social Media
Social media is fast becoming one way for identity thieves to work their magic. Many people use information about their high schools, parents, pets, and children as passwords and security questions. You might be shocked at how quickly a glance at your Facebook page, your family's blog, or your Twitter stream can provide this type of information for identity thieves.
On top of that, the incidence of fraud is growing as well. It's possible for a thief to take a look at your profile, your friends' profiles, piece together some information, and then call you, pretending to be a friend or relative in trouble and asking for money.
Others are Looking at Your Online Life
While it might not be possible for someone to access your accounts as quickly as the video implies, the reality is that there is financial information out there — and you are probably providing a lot of it.
One of the growing trends in lending is to check borrowers' social media use. The fact that you spent so much money on clothes last month, or the fact that your friends are constantly talking about how much financial trouble they are in, might come back to haunt you.
According to the Economist, your credit card interest rate might soon be based on the information in your Facebook profile. Additionally, some lenders around the world already poke around on profiles. Profiles with bad grammar are seen as riskier. Those who obviously live in good neighborhoods and have well-to-do, educated friends are more likely to get better terms. On top of that, your LinkedIn profile can provide clues about your employability. Lots of good connections means that you are likely to find a job again soon if you are laid off — and that makes you a better credit risk for lenders.
While the information you put “out there” says a lot about you, most financial services companies rely on consumer profiles to determine what sort of credit risk you might represent.
Even if the information isn't specifically about your credit past, it might still be used to make decisions about you. A couple of years ago, the Federal Reserve began allowing credit bureaus to use information in your report to estimate your income. Additionally, there are companies that collect employment and income information and then sell it to others.
But you make it that much easier for someone else to get all that information about you when you share it publicly. While you are probably used to the idea that you need to sanitize your social media profiles in order to appear more professional and keep your career on track, it's probably also time for you to realize that even the most innocuous comments about your money situation could also affect your financial future.