Professional networks like LinkedIn encourage them to document their career history, while Twitter's microblog function serves as a platform for real-time updates ranging from the trivial to the political. Sharing this information with friends and family may often be harmless - until it is not.
Those who share their personal information over the internet may be prime targets for identity theft, according to a recent report by Tidewater News. Beyond photo-sharing and miniblogging, consumers who pay their bills online or make purchases on retail websites often fall victim to this kind of crime.
"Online hackers are actively and aggressively seeking information about individuals online," the report said. "And as more and more personal information is being stored online, cyber criminals are having great successes."
Using the internet safely is a crucial component in avoiding identity theft. This can mean using a different password and login for each online account, and avoiding websites that appear to be fraudulent. A lock on one's web browser will indicate that their connection is secure when purchasing products or checking bank information, according to the report. Privacy policies are also indicative of an online retailer's trustworthiness.
Consumers should be wary of any popups or free services offered during a transaction or online banking experience. Inadvertently signing up for these programs can lead to weeks of charges. Consumers may also employ caution toward emails from unknown senders, as opening them could expose their network to risky software.
Separate reserach by VeriSign, Inc., indicated a correlation between the amount of time individuals spend online and their likelihood of being targeted for identity theft. Those who reported using the internet frequently were victimized, or knew someone who was, twice as often as infrequent users. These people also reported higher trust levels as they became more educated about the internet's risks.
"Trust is the currency with which Web sites build lasting relationships with consumers," said Mark McLaughlin, president and chief executive officer of VeriSign. " Without it, people and organizations won't freely share information or purchase online."
Using a credit monitoring service can also help consumers fend off risks. The earlier they become aware of fraudulent or erroneous activity on their account, the sooner they are able to take action against it. Those who think their personal information has been compromised should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and contact their lender to close any affected accounts.