13 Million Americans Leave the Door Open to Identity Theft on Social Networks

March 22, 2011

ID Analytics’ Survey Finds Millions of U.S. Adults Willing to Accept Requests from Anyone of the Opposite Sex; Only Half Trust Online Connections to Keep Their Data Private

SAN DIEGO, CA – Nearly 13 million Americans aged 18 or older who are on social networking sites will accept any social media connection request from a member of the opposite sex, regardless of whether or not they know that person, according to a recent survey. The survey of 1,011 U.S. adults, of whom 387 have joined an online social networking site, conducted via telephone by Harris Interactive® on behalf of ID Analytics last month, also found that men on social networking sites are more than twice as likely as women to accept any and all invites from someone of the opposite sex (18 percent compared to seven percent for women).

While adult Americans are willing to accept online connection requests on social media networks, only half (50 percent) of those who are on social networking sites actually trust those connections to keep their data private. Despite this lack of trust, the survey also found that more than 24 million Americans on social networking sites keep their online profiles “mostly public,” meaning anyone can see their personal details.

Other Key Findings:

Younger Men More Likely to Accept Invites—Directionally*, the study found men between the ages of 18 to 34 on social networks were the most likely to accept invites from anyone of the opposite sex compared to older men.

Grabbing All the Friends You Can Get—The survey also found that five percent of U.S. adults on social networks will accept any friend request they receive – regardless of who sends them.

What Type of Friend Matters—Not all social networks are created equal. U.S. adults who have joined an online social network were twice as likely to state that it is important to have as many business social media contacts as possible (39 percent), compared to personal connections on social networks (19 percent). This sheds some insight into possible avenues of approach by fraudsters.

“American’s lack of caution in friending members of the opposite sex online is striking,” said Thomas Oscherwitz, chief privacy officer for ID Analytics, Inc. “Friending someone online is not risk-free. Just as in the bricks-and-mortar world, it makes sense to exercise a bit of prudence. Most social networking profiles contain personal information that can be used by fraudsters, and when you friend someone, you are giving them access to this information.”

Fraudsters can use information in social networking profiles to build the dossiers they need to beat challenge questions and other security measures on financial accounts. The key identity elements that consumers should be careful before exposing on social networks are:

Consumers can check their risk of identity fraud at MyIDScore.com. This free online service gives consumers immediate insight into whether their personal identifiable information is being used fraudulently to obtain assets, goods or services.

This survey was conducted by telephone within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of ID Analytics between February 9 and 13, 2011 among 1,011 U.S. adults, of whom 387 have joined social networking sites. Results were weighted for age, sex, geographic region and race where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. For complete methodology, including subgroup base sizes, please contact Liz Nelson or Jen Barlow at IDAnalytics@schwartzcomm.com.

*Caution should be used in analyzing these results due to small base sizes.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

About ID Analytics, Inc.

ID Analytics is transforming consumer risk management with patented analytics, proven expertise, and real-time insight into consumer behavior. By combining proprietary data from the ID Network®— one of the nation’s largest networks of cross-industry behavioral data—with advanced science, ID Analytics provides unprecedented visibility into identity risk and creditworthiness. Every day, the largest U.S. companies and critical government agencies rely on ID Analytics to make risk-based decisions that enhance revenue, reduce fraud, drive cost savings, and protect consumers. Please visit us on the web at www.idanalytics.com.

For More Information Contact:

Jen Barlow 
Schwartz Communications

Brigitte Engel 
ID Analytics, Inc.

ID Analytics is a registered trademark of ID Analytics, Inc. All other trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective holders.