Similarly, someone with a high score might be targeted for his or her apparent wealth. "Then you're a target for bigger scams," Sileo says. "Instead of trying an automated attack, I might try a spear phishing scheme. So now I'll take the time to learn about you, gain your trust and maybe cultivate an online relationship."
[Read: How to Avoid Online Ticket Scammers.]
Still, Rod Griffin, public education director for Experian, says there's no real harm is sharing only the number. In fact, he often shares his own scores in presentations. (For the record, his recent scores from each of the three bureaus were 797, 803 and 785.) "There is no information from a score that would enable a person to access your existing account or do anything that would be fraudulent or nefarious," he says, adding that all you can infer from a high score like his is that "a person must manage their finances well."
Anything other than the number, though, should be kept private, Griffin says. "To say, 'I'm a 785 is like saying, 'I'm a Scorpio,' but beyond that, you would never want to share personally identifying information from your credit report," he explains. That includes account numbers, balances and credit limits, because criminals could potentially use that information to hack into accounts or impersonate financial service providers.
Even TransUnion, the credit bureau that offers the Facebook share button next to credit scores, reminds people to limit what they share online. In response to questions over email, TransUnion Vice President Julie Springer wrote, "While social media is a great way for individuals to connect with others and exchange ideas, consumers should be careful what personal information they include in their profiles … use common sense when giving someone else information."
Here are some tips to keep your finances safe:
1. Don't let your ego trick you into oversharing.
"Don't go bragging about your finances, or things you just bought," Siciliano warns. He points out that the plot of this year's movie "The Bling Ring," which is based on true events, illustrates why. In the film, thieves break into celebrities' homes and steal their items after they posted about their whereabouts (and recent purchases) online. Posting about finances can immediately turn you into a target, he adds.
2. Guard your information.
While bits and pieces of information, such as your email address, birthday or hometown might not enable a fraudster to hack into your account, fraudsters can slowly acquire facts about you from various sources on the Internet to impersonate you or otherwise steal your identity, Sileo says. Even downloading free apps that collect your information, including your whereabouts, can lead to identity theft, he adds.
3. View "official" emails suspiciously.
Griffin points out that Experian never reaches out directly to consumers, so if you get an email that claims to be from Experian, it's not. "It happens all the time, as it does with every company. There are scammers that set up websites that look just like a legitimate website and use it to try to defraud people," he says. Instead of clicking on urls in emails, he recommends contacting financial companies directly if you want to interact with them.
4. Get your free credit report once a year.
Every consumer can access a free credit report once a year from the website annualcreditreport.com. Many credit bureaus also offer consumer websites with more detailed information about credit and identity theft prevention, including Equifax's identityprotection.com and Experian's livecreditsmart.com.