Instagram, the social network for photo and video sharing, is technically owned by Facebook and has been since 2012. But it would be a mistake for users to confuse the two. Instagram stands on its own, offering users something unique – the ability to share high-resolution media with specific tags that their friends can search for. Today, the service has more than 400 million active monthly users.
How can a photo and video sharing service present a security risk? It’s easier than you think. Sure, Instagram profiles may not contain a significant amount of personal information, but your data doesn’t have to be written down in order to be exploited. Many Instagram users underestimate the extent by which their photos and videos can betray their security.
I’m not me
Imagine that someone you never met stole your photos and used them to create social media profiles in your likeness. As far as Internet interactions would be concerned, they would have become you.
It’s a possibility that, to many, seems downright eerie and not a little bit far-fetched. But it has really happened. For example, last year Cosmopolitan UK wrote an article about a woman named Ruth Palmer who had 900 Instagram photos stolen from her account. The hacker used the images to impersonate the victim on Instagram, essentially imitating her life under the name “Leah Palmer” and developing online relationships with several men. Ruth contacted Instagram several times to get it to shut the fake account down, only for “Leah” to create new accounts later. Finally, Ruth had to get in touch with the men who had been fooled and tell them the truth about “Leah.”
Luckily for Ruth, this incident did not result in any financial damage. but it is certainly a possibility, depending on how far a hacker is willing to go to steal a victim’s personal information.
How to secure your Instagram account
Here are some tips for reducing your risk of having your Instagram account compromised:
- Pay attention to your privacy settings: There’s really no reason to make your photos viewable by anyone who isn’t a friend or relative. Luckily, it’s easy to go into the settings menu and set posts as private so you can control who views them. You can also prevent your followers from tagging you in photos.
- Don’t expose your location: Instagram makes it easy to add a location to your photos, but that doesn’t mean you want to do so. Sometimes, it’s best that people don’t know where you are at all times. You should access your photo map and toggle the settings to remove location tags from photos.
- Block strangers: You don’t have to accept followers if you don’t want to. Maybe they’re posting inappropriate comments. maybe you just aren’t comfortable being followed by someone you don’t know. Either way, all you have to do is click on their profile and choose the “Block User” menu option.
These simple steps can go a long way to making sure that your Instagram profile is more secure. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely protect yourself from identity theft and the potential financial implications. But you can prepare yourself to react.
Think proactively about your personal information and consider what tools you might want to invest in to stay protected. An identity theft protection service can monitor your credit files, Social Security Number and public records. It can alert you to certain activity in your credit file that could indicate fraud sot hat you can react promptly.