Personal information, like Social Security numbers and credit card numbers, is supposed to be kept private. We feel that this is a fairly easy concept to understand. But when we log into Twitter and take a look around, our faith in humanity crumbles. Why?
Because every day, dozens of Twitter users upload pictures of their credit and debit cards to the massive social network without censoring the information on the card face. We’re not kidding – this is something that people actually do. And quite frankly, we’re flabbergasted. Posting your credit and debit account numbers to one of the world’s largest social networks is so irresponsible that it gives us a migraine just thinking about it. When you do it, you’re giving any hacker in the world all the data he needs to steal your identity.
And yet, pictures of credit and debit cards just keep popping up. In fact, they’re so prevalent on Twitter that there’s now an account devoted solely to exposing them to the public. It’s called @NeedaDebitCard, and if you aren’t following it yet, you really should be.
Every day @NeedaDebitCard trawls the Twittersphere for posts containing uncensored images of credit and debit cards. It then retweets them to its followers. Since its creation on May 25, the account has published more than 60 compromising photos, revealing a level of ignorance among America’s Internet users that we didn’t think was possible.
“So I kinda broke my debit card,” said one user, who uploaded a picture of his cracked-in-half card. The numbers, name and expiration date were visible.
“My debit card is [expletive] cute, [expletive],” said another, who posted a photo of a pink card with images of diamonds on it.
Another woman tweeted a picture of her daughter holding her platinum card. The accompanying caption reads, “Gave the birthday girl my credit card her for [sic] Bday. Go nuts bbgirl!”
Oversharing like this is especially dangerous when you’re doing it with your debit card. Unlike credit cards, debit cards give thieves a direct line to your checking account – so when money is stolen, it will be yours, not your bank’s. And since debit cards aren’t protected by the CARD Act, you can still be held partially liable for the theft. If you don’t report your losses within two days, your bank can charge you $500 to get your money back. If you don’t report a breach within two months, your bank doesn’t have to give your money back at all.
However, there is a silver lining to this cloud. For all of the fuss it’s causing, it appears to be getting the message across to Twitter users. The account is starting to receive national media coverage. The LA Times and Mashable have mentioned it. As a result, the number of users who follow @NeedaDebitCard has more than doubled in the last few days.
Besides raising public awareness about risky tweeting, the Twitter account also appears to be making an impact on these crazy posters as well. The account’s most recent retweets lead to dead links, suggesting that people are wising up and removing compromising posts.
It may not be the hero that Twitter users need right now, but @NeedaDebitCard is certainly the one that they deserve. The Internet today is an important part of our lives. It’ll become more so over time, and identity theft is only going to get worse. American consumers must get literate with online privacy, and they need to do it fast. If a tweet-induced account theft is what it takes for some folks to learn that the Internet isn’t safe, so be it. Learning the hard way is better than not learning at all. Wouldn’t you agree?