The number of social networking profiles that been accessed without permission in on the rise, says Capital One.
According to research conducted by the credit card provider to coincide with National Identity Fraud Prevention week 60 million social networking profiles have been subject to unauthorised access in the last year, that's the equivalent of 1.9 every second. Capital One has dubbed the phenomenon 'smugging' (social media mugging).
More than nine in ten (91 percent) of the social networkers that have been victims of smugging said their Facebook profile had been accessed without authorisation, while nine percent of Twitter users and seven percent of those with LinkedIn accounts also claim their accounts have been subject to unauthorised access.
More than a third (36 percent) of smugging incidents were carried out by the victim's friends, while 21 percent said their partner had accessed their account without authorisation. However, one in ten say their ex-partner was behind the smugging attempt.
Nearly a third (29) percent of those that carried out a smugging incident said it was a spur-of-the-moment thing as their victim hadn't logged out of their PC while 15 percent said they used a mobile phone that the victim hadn't logged out of. Just five percent believe their account was accessed without authorisation on purpose.
Inappropriate comments being posted on a social networking profile were the most common results of smugging with 43 percent admitting the had experienced this, although a quarter revealed they'd had a message sent to their contacts and 24 percent said their personal details had been changed.
Capital One said more than 30,000 people had gotten in trouble at work and 18,000 believed they'd been passed over for promotion because of smugging. However as 35 percent of social networkers admit to keeping important details such as addresses, bank PIN codes or friends' contact details in their profiles, Capital One said there is a real possibility that smugging can take a much more sinister turn and could result in identity theft.
"Social networking sites are a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. Yet in the excitement of connecting with those around us, remembering to protect your online profile can often take a back seat, which can leave people open to smugging, or worse, identity theft," said Michael Woodburn, chief marketing officer, Capital One.
"Small actions like protecting your mobile with a password, using a password that is a combination of numbers and letters and regularly checking bank and credit card statements, can go a long way in helping people protect themselves against a smugging attack and identity theft."