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Millennials posting pet pictures on Instagram are at risk of fraud, Santander warns

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A woman takes a selfie with a dog
Ezequiel Becerra | AFP | Getty Images

Millennials posting photos of their pets on social media platforms such as Instagram are putting themselves at risk of fraud and financial scams, according to a new survey.

Spanish bank Santander, in a survey, criticized celebrities for setting a bad example by oversharing online, claiming they were putting "impressionable young followers" at risk.

In June, Santander U.K. and OnePoll surveyed 2,000 British adults who use Instagram, publishing their findings on Monday.

Almost 90% of people under the age of 25 admitted to posting personal information — such as their age or pet's name — on social media.

Meanwhile, one in 10 people in the same age range have shared the name of a pet on Instagram and used that name as a password, according to Santander.

The lender noted that more than a quarter of the Instagram accounts followed by under 25s belonged to celebrities, with its research showing that 40% of young adults were influenced by celebrity posts. A third of 18 to 24 year olds said they had used an actual celebrity Instagram post as inspiration for their own social media content.

Celebrity oversharing was setting a "particularly dangerous" trend, Santander warned. Publishing too much information could enable fraudsters to build up profiles of victims, which could be used to apply for financial products in their name, manipulate a victim into sharing more personal details, or transfer their money into another account.

The bank claimed it had uncovered "a selection of celebrities who are guilty of oversharing on Instagram."

Some celebrities are renowned for posting photos of their pets, with many even opening separate accounts dedicated to them.

Lady Gaga's French bulldog has its own verified account with 233,000 followers, while singer Taylor Swift – who has 119 million followers – regularly posts pictures of her pet cats.

How to reduce fraud risks online

Santander shared four tips to avoid dangerous oversharing on social media, which were collated by social media expert Jodie Cook.

  1. Keep your date of birth to yourself
    Cook advised Instagrammers to try not to share ages or dates of birth when posting pictures of birthday celebrations.
  2. Don't overshare pet names
    "Posting pets pics and tagging their names might get the likes rolling in, but given how commonly they're used for security questions, you might be oversharing just enough detail for fraudsters to take advantage," Cook said in a press release Monday.
  3. Be mindful of family details
    When posting on social media, users should avoid giving away details like their middle name or their mother's maiden name, as these are some of the most commonly used security questions.
  4. Childhood memories can land you in trouble
    "Whilst it may be tempting to reminisce about childhood memories online, avoid disclosing where you were born," Cook said, noting that this information could be used to access your bank accounts.
  5. Keep sensitive documents out of sight
    It might seem obvious to keep bank cards and passports off of Instagram, but Cook urged social media users to check their pictures before posting. "Remember, out of sight, out of mind and out of trouble," she said.