July 6 (Bloomberg) – Social Security numbers, commonly used by criminals in identity theft, can be guessed using information found on Internet social networks such as Facebook and MySpace and other public sources, a study found.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University used the information they gleaned to predict, in one try, the first five digits of a person’s Social Security number 44 percent of the time for 160,000 people born between 1989 and 2003. The study appears today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Annual losses from identity theft totaled $49 billion, according to a 2007 report from Javelin Strategy & Research, a Pleasanton, California, market-research company. About 8.4 million U.S. adults were victims of identity theft that year, with losses averaging $5,720 a person, according to Javelin’s figures.