Online research from Equifax has revealed that a significant portion of social media users risk identity theft by giving fraudsters easy access to personal information. The online survey conducted by YouGov found that almost one-third (30%) of British adults with a social media account include their full name and date of birth on their profile pages. An even higher 37% of people who use their smart phone as their main way to access the internet are revealing too much information, indicating that the desire to stay connected is clouding people’s judgement around how much information to share openly.

As the popularity of social media continues to grow and new platforms are launched, there are more places for people to host their personal information online, creating a rich hunting ground for fraudsters. Fraudsters can use a name and date of birth to obtain additional information, including a person’s address. This then gives them enough detail to take over an identity and carry out criminal activities such as applying for a loan or credit card under the stolen identity.

The survey shows that younger generations are far more comfortable sharing their name and date of birth; 48% of 18-24-year-olds online divulge this information compared to 28% for the 35-44 age bracket. Although information from older generations has a higher immediate value to fraudsters, because these people are generally more wealthy and have established credit histories, young people’s  information is also attractive for use in the future, growing in value as earnings rise and people take on more financial products.

John Marsden, Head of ID and Fraud at Equifax, says: “People must act now to protect their finances for the long term. Cases of fraud are on the rise, with identity theft representing a major slice of fraudulent activity. More adults in the UK are engaging with social media than ever before, especially on their smartphones, and a high number are readily sharing their personal information on these platforms. This can pose a real risk of identity theft as it gives fraudsters an easy gateway to access more information.

“Fraudsters get hold of this type of information so they can impersonate an individual, either by setting up accounts in their name or accessing existing accounts and stealing from them. The extent of damage can run to thousands of pounds worth of debt being racked up in your name. My advice to consumers is to be social savvy; avoid unnecessarily sharing personal details and risking your identity on platforms that can so easily be exploited. It’s always nice to receive well wishes on your birthday – but is it worth the risk?”