Safeguarding your financial information is a no-brainer – it’s certainly no surprise that sharing access to your accounts, especially online, can lead to identity theft and other issues. But tell that to the “Facebook Generation” – while younger adults and teens may be technologically savvy, they take the “sharing is caring” mentality a bit too far, and are often too forthcoming with their financial information.
A recent poll by Visa Canada found nearly 50 per cent of 18- to 34-year olds regularly share their most private financial information such as PIN numbers, and lend their credit cards to friends. As technology becomes widespread, this trend doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon.
Oversharing Financial Information
Sharing financial information has an all-new meaning in the digital era where everyone seems to have a smartphone and a wireless Internet connection at their disposal. Generation Y’s fondness for sharing financial information is especially true online – nearly 50 per cent have shared their credit and debit card numbers via texting and email. This isn’t surprising since 18-to-34 year olds are the most active age group online. Their favourite activities include posting profiles and photos online on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. While you may think it’s harmless to include personal information like your employment history, phone number and address on your profile, it could fall into the wrong hands and be used for identify theft.
Sharing Leads to Fraud
Forty three per cent of 18-to-34 year olds who regularly shared their financial information reported being the victim of fraud. It’s no coincidence that by sharing your credit card number it can fall into the wrong hands. Although most people are aware of the risks, it doesn’t seem to be changing their behaviour. Fifty six per cent said they were more concerned about identity theft today, while half said they would more concerned about payment fraud. Fraud Prevention Month, which lasts throughout March, is a good reminder we all can do a better job of protecting our financial information.
How Concerned Should We Be?
Fraud is a major problem in Canada. According to the RCMP, Canadians lose an estimated $10 to $30 billion each year to fraudsters. Who are these criminals? These aren’t the teenage hackers of yesterday – criminal organizations account for the majority of stolen personal information. Personal information such as social insurance numbers, dates of birth and addresses of Canadians are regularly sold online on the black market between criminals. What can these criminals do with your personal information? They can take out credit cards and mortgages in your name and ruin your credit history. You could spend years trying to clear up your credit history.
How to Prevent Fraud
Before sharing with friends, you should consider who could obtain your personal information. Technology isn’t as secure as we believe. For example, public WiFi networks and cyber cafes offer perfect opportunities for thieves to steal your information. Only provide your personal information when required on a need to know basis. Just because an application form requests your Social Insurance Number doesn’t mean you should provide it. Certain activities like shopping online and going to the gas station have a higher risk of fraud – it’s a good idea to have a low limit credit card of $1,000. If you’re looking for extra security, credit cards from lenders including MBNA offer Credit Alert, a service designed to help you proactively protect your credit and identify information.
The bottom line is to be careful about whom you share information with – sharing your PIN in two seconds could cause years’ worth of headaches.