Stealing social security numbers out of the trash is so analog. According to a new study, social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are now the prime targets for hackers and identity thieves
"The sheer amount of public data on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo and even MySpace make it easier to impersonate, damage or misrepresent a personal or business identity on the Web," the report by Aladdin Attack Intelligence Center
The Federal Trade Commission reports that more than 9 million identities are stolen in the U.S. each year, and researchers say that people ages 18 to 24 are at the highest risk of experiencing identity fraud
. Click here
to find out how hackers get private data from your profile.Stealing the Info Straight From You
Although these sites have made efforts to safeguard profiles, wily hackers can piece together details by looking at your pictures, e-mail (you'd be suprised how many people use their pet's name as their password), screen name and phone number (especially if your Facebook profile is public).
With this information, these hackers can do anything from sending stupid messages to your network, to contacting your friends, to requesting money
. Other thieves access yours personal e-mail accounts to find financial data -- like shopping sites that have your credit card stored or the eBay/PayPal log-in that's linked to your bank account. Profile Poser
We've heard of people posing as our favorite celebrities by creating profiles that are supposedly the star's "official MySpace page." But now, you don't have to hit VIP status for someone to create a fake Web version of you on Facebook and MySpace
Zoe, who was a St. John's University student at the time, found out through a couple of friends that a new account had gone up with her name on MySpace. "I obviously had no clue what they were talking about so they showed me the account which had negative descriptions that 'I' apparently wrote."
Wanting to know who had made it their mission to impersonate (and try to humiliate) her, Zoe messaged the fake account -- but just got back a cryptic, "Guess Who?" "To this day I have no idea who it is. I even sent MySpace a picture of me with my real MySpace ID to prove that the other one is fake, but they didn't do anything to cancel it."
Since Zoe couldn't delete her "other account," she has just been telling all her friends which profile page is the real one. Spamming Friends
New Jersey native Samantha experienced this firsthand when someone managed to use her Yahoo e-mail account and log onto her MySpace profile.
Though everything looked normal on her end, "I received a message from a friend of mine pleading with me to stop sending offensive spam through the MySpace friend forums," she said. "I told them I had no idea that it was going on, but sure enough when I finally checked the forums -- which I'd never frequented -- there were was all the spam."
Samantha received the same feedback from another friend about her e-mail account. All she could do was apologize for all the messages and changed her passwords on both accounts. Protect Yourself
Running anti-virus software, limiting the details you list as visible, having a separate e-mail account for your social networking logins and creating a strong password
are a few steps you can take to prevent identity hacks
. Tell Us
: Has your Facebook or MySpace profile ever been hacked into? If so, what did you do?