As an Investigative Assistant at NICB, I provide assistance to NICB Agents, member companies, and our law enforcement partners in the fight against insurance fraud. Each call that I receive can be vastly different. It’s a stark reminder that new types of fraudulent schemes are emerging on a daily basis. Armed with this new knowledge, it has caused me to reconsider how I use social media.
When I first joined Facebook, it seemed like an exclusive club that was only open to those with a college email address. Its exclusiveness made it feel a lot safer than its counterpart MySpace, which was open to anyone. However, after a while Facebook dropped its college-only status and opened itself up to anyone with a computer. With the openness of social networks such as Facebook, the current generation has to be careful of what information it shares with the social media world.
There seems to be a common misconception among my generation, Generation Y/Millenials; it’s the idea that we are in control of who sees our information. We create a password, handpick a mere 865 friends, and set our profiles to “private.” Yet we are still at risk of having our information shared with people we don’t know. Today, all someone needs to do is take a screenshot of that embarrassing picture or any other private moment that you’ve posted on Facebook and send it to five of their friends. Poof! That security wall that you thought you put up has suddenly come tumbling down.
Unlike previous generations, we seem to be more willing to share our daily life with people we barely know, thereby putting ourselves at risk for all types of danger, including identity theft and other fraud schemes. Over sharing is a serious problem. Aside from the host of potentially unflattering pictures of inappropriate behavior that we may post, we’ve essentially given up control of our personal information to a website in hopes of showing other people just how great we are doing. Well. How great are we actually doing?
As a user, I can’t pretend that I don’t appreciate the benefits that social platforms like Facebook provides me to keep in touch with friends. I do love those wedding pictures from my grammar school classmates. Like many other users, I also wonder what these people have been up to since we last saw each other, often so many years ago.
I have also found many new organizations to support that I otherwise would not have known about due to the location or just plain lack of information. Like many of my contemporaries, I usually receive my world news by my custom select newsfeed. Newspapers? Not so much. And yes, I’m more likely to use the search engine on my phone rather than grab a chunky phone book. Do they even print those anymore?
But I still have to wonder, at what price does this benefit come? Posting pictures of yourself engaging in inappropriate behavior can do more harm than just make you look bad to a potential employer. Tagging yourself in a certain location can make you more likely to have someone follow you. Putting on Facebook that you are going on vacation makes it easier for a break in to happen. All of these reasons are the downside of this new freedom my generation has created for itself. We seem to be quick to put out information to let people know everything about ourselves that we are willing to give up control of our private information.
So, is there a plus side to sharing? It has become a good ally in helping to combat insurance fraud. Ten years ago, law enforcement may have had to search for weeks to find information on a stolen car or for investigators at an insurance company to find evidence regarding a suspicious claim. Now individuals seem to willingly put it all out there on the social networks for the whole world to see. With the click of a mouse, friends, strangers, and law enforcement can get pictures, advertisements, and even a confession of car thefts, break-ins and other illegal activities.
It will be interesting to see what the future of social media holds for not just Generation Y, but for all of us. As for me, I’m rethinking my next status update. LOL.