Social media profiles were accessed without permission 60 million times last year in the UK, according to research from Capital One.
The popularity of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn has resulted in a new phenomenon quipped 'smugging', short for social media mugging. On average, nearly two profiles are 'smugged' per second in the UK.
Victims see their profiles hacked with inappropriate comments posted, messages sent to their contacts and personal details changed. Michael Woodburn, spokesperson for Capital One, says social media users also risk setting themselves up for identity theft:
"In the excitement of connecting with those around us, remembering to protect your online profile can often take a back seat, which can leave people open to smugging, or worse, identity theft," Woodburn warns.
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A third of Britons admit they store important details, such as their address, friends' contact details and even their bank PIN codes, on their profiles. Woodburn recommends some simple precautions to protect these details: "Small actions like protecting your mobile with a password, using a password that is a combination of numbers and letters and regularly checking bank and credit card statements, can go a long way in helping people protect themselves against a smugging attack and identity theft."
The worst passwords to use online
Stay safe on social media
Always log out of social media websites – even if on your home computer but especially on public machines at work, internet cafés or the library.
Don't use a password that relates to personal information, such as address, date of birth or PIN number – although easy to remember, you're giving away vital information to scammers.
Use a mixture of letters, numbers and upper and lower case in your passwords and use different passwords for different networks.
Limit the amount of personal details you display – for example, if you want to put your birthday on Facebook leave out the year you were born. Direct message important information on Twitter so not everyone can see it.
Set up a password for mobile phone access.