"Every single one of my friends is on Facebook," says Belmont Junior Paul Lindsay.
The status updates, photo sharing, and friend requesting never stop.
"Every time I get on the internet it's always Facebook.com," says Belmont Senior Paige Chappel.
Facebook is a great way to keep in touch, but when you share too much about yourself, it's a risky proposition.
"Whatever you put online you are allowing the entire world to see," says FBI Cyber Crimes' Scott Augenbaum.
Augenbaum leads the Nashville FBI'S Cyber Crime Unit, and says social media is quickly becoming a prime outlet for thieves.
"The criminals are going to follow the money, and where is the money?" says Augenbaum. "The money is on the internet."
Personal information is the key to identity theft and Facebook is full of it. A poll by NextAdvisor.com found that 27% of Facebook users list their full name, date of birth, phone number and email address on their Facebook profile.
"You are just telling everyone your date of birth," says Augenbaum. "With that information, you're one step closer to losing your identity."
Augenbaum says posting your birthday and hometown can help savvy thieves narrow down the first 3 digits of your social security number. The last 4 digits aren't hard for hackers to find, leaving only the middle 2 digits to figure out.
"I would have never guessed that," says Nicolette Birkner. "I'll probably take my birthday off there, and my hometown."
Even Facebook admits it's a target. A recent report indicates up to 600,000 Facebook accounts are subjet to an attempted hacking every day. Belmont Senior Paige Chappel recently had her account broken into.
"Probably 2 weeks ago I did get hacked and so there was spam all over my friends walls from stuff that I had posted," says Chappel. "It was like 'I did not post this'."
Identity theft isn't the only risk on Facebook. Cyber criminals are distributing malware by sending you a phony link. The goal: copying your key strokes to steal your bank user name and password.
"If the cyber criminals are able to get your bank account information," says Augenbaum. "They have the ability to take all the money out of your account."
Dr. Syb Bennett is a Social Media Specialist at Belmont University.
"Online your sins may be forgiven," says Dr. Bennett. "But they won't be forgotten."
Dr. Syb, as she's known, says many personal details about ourselves are already online. It's up to us to be intentional about what we're sharing.
"It's pretty frightening when you start to think about every piece of information online being aggregated in one spot," says Dr. Syb. "a digital profile being able to be presented about you."
Experts agree social media is a great tool, with incredible potential, but remember there are others with ulterior motives.
"The best piece of advice I can give individuals who are using social media websites is think before you click," says Augenbaum.
What you post today could put you in jeopardy tomorrow. So what can you do to protect yourself? Here are a few quick tips:
1. Only accept friend requests from people you know. That way you'll know the people who are looking at your Facebook page.
2. Use Facebook's privacy settings to customize what people are allowed to see. Keep your information, photos and wall private.
3. Be careful about posting information that might be a clue to your online passwords. Things like your pet's name or favorite sports teams could be obvious guesses.
4. Take your birth date off of your Facebook profile. This one piece of information is like gold to someone looking to steal your identity.
We've been guilty of breaking these rules, but after doing this story, we're going to be much more careful. In a related report, a Clarksville teen and her family want answers after a Facebook security breach exposes her and millions of other users across the world to hard core pornography. That story will be posted shortly.
Wednesday, November 16 2011, 10:56 PM CST
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