More than 2.5 million people are making themselves vulnerable to identity theft by posting confidential details online, new research claims.
More than 10.8 million people across the UK are registered with a social networking site such as Facebook, Bebo or MySpace.
But a survey of 2,000 adults by Get Safe Online, a government-backed campaign group, found that 25% of social networkers have posted confidential or personal information such as their phone number, address or email, on their online profiles.
Tony Neate, Managing Director of Get Safe Online, said: ‘The popularity of social networking and other sites means that we are much more open about ourselves and our lives online.
‘Although some of these details may seem harmless, they actually provide rich pickings for criminals. Your date of birth and where you live is enough for someone to set up a credit card in your name. So whilst most people wouldn’t give this information to a stranger in real life, they will happily post it online where people they don’t know can see it.’
The Get Safe Online research also found that 51% of the over-65s use a single password for every website they visit even though you should never use the same password for more than one account.
Get Safe Online is also warning that the increasing popularity of wireless (Wi-Fi) networks can also open up new avenues for criminals.
It says that more than 7.8 million people in the UK have left their own internet access unsecured and open for anyone to use.
Criminals can use the network you are on to hijack your PC or laptop, meaning that they can see, steal, delete or even add files on your machine. They can do all of these things while you are using your PC without you realising something is wrong.
Most wireless networks are unsecured when first set up, but can be configured to stop unauthorised users accessing them.