Facebook and Identity Theft

Identity theft caused by over sharing online

How sharing on Facebook (almost) ruined my life

Privacy. Some people put up a fence and close the blinds while some people get the newspaper in their whitey tighties. But what do they do to protect themselves on the internet?

From what I have seen, many people aren’t as careful online as they should be. A common theme among those I know is, “only really personal stuff needs to be private”.

So what qualifies as really personal stuff? It depends on who you ask. It can include your SSN, your credit card number, your passwords, your birthday, your address, days you’ll be out of town, times when you are home alone, anything that could give away your secret questions for your passwords when you forget them (secret questions such as “What is your first pet’s name?”), and even your phone number.

“Jax was my new puppy. I was so proud of him that I wanted to show him off to all my friends. I loved him so much I even changed my Facebook password to IloveJAX. I made myself an easy target to anyone looking to gain access to my Facebook account. I had my posts set as public, put up a status about how I loved my new puppy, Jax, and before I knew it my friends were calling me saying they got some weird messages from me on Facebook. If it weren’t for some of my hypervigilant friends on Facebook, things could have gotten a lot worse. I’ll always be sure to make sure my passwords are much more difficult to figure out!”

As you may guess, stealing credit card numbers is a big one that happens quite frequently and identity theft has increased throughout the past few years. And while those may appear to be the only privacy and security threats on the internet, they are only the beginning.

Once you put something on the internet, it is there forever. That blog posting you typed up that talked about how much you hated person XYZ can come back to haunt you. And that doesn’t only happen with blogs. Facebook statuses have led to the suspension of students and even teachers. Beware; it doesn’t just happen in schools. In your spare time, Google “people fired over Facebook status” and you’ll find numerous links to Facebook statuses that have cost people their jobs.

Facebook statuses aren’t the only aspect of Facebook you should be concerned with. Posting your address and phone number makes it easy for people who have stumbled across you online to find you IRL (in real life). Uploading mobile images lets people know where you are, which can be okay but it can also let people know that your home is vacant. Identifying your family members and hometown can even be a big no-no if you use your hometown or mother’s maiden name as your security question answers.

Facebook does have privacy settings that you should familiarize yourself with. Make sure you know the people you are “friending”. Be careful what you say in your statuses. Don’t share TOO much in your “About” section. And stay current on Facebook security, Zuckerberg seems to change settings every now and then.

A 1,000 page book could not cover everything you need to know about privacy and security on the internet. Be cautious and untrusting. And if you have any questions, let me know. I can go into more detail regarding what Facebook security settings mean or how you can help protect yourself when making online purchases or anything else you’d like to know. Or, if you have a story regarding online privacy, share your experiences to help others avoid the same mistakes

If you take one piece of advice with you today, it should be this:

You cannot trust anyone on the internet. Be careful what you share. Be cautious of websites, especially ones you have never visited. Don’t enter your SSN or any other personal data unless you are 100% sure you can trust the website. If you have any doubt, do not do it. Be careful. Be safe. Have fun!