Most people know not to blithely give out personal information to strangers online. But when it comes to what they post on Facebook, all bets are off.
“Despite all the awareness that people have about identity fraud and privacy on social networks, there is a disconnect between what people are disclosing in online space and social environments and what they may be using in other places of their lives,” Thomas Oscherwitz, chief privacy officer for ID Analytics, a San Diego-based consumer risk management firm tells smartmoney.com. And this data can be used by criminals who troll social networking sites just as easily as when it’s shared elsewhere on the web. How to thwart those up to no good? Use these safeguards, writes John Sileo, a Denver-based identify-theft expert and author of the Facebook Safety Survival Guide:
- Don’t post your birthplace and full date of birth on your profile, as together this is information that can be used to steal your identity.
- Similarly, leave your street address, phone number and email address off your Facebook page (or any other profile).
- Limit who has access to your personal data to friends only—not friends of friends or someone you just met. And make sure to control your settings. Facebook and other social-networking sites have privacy features, but since they tend to change, keep checking them often to make sure you’re protected.
- Don’t update your status to say you’ll be away for a week in India or you’re just inviting burglars into your home. Wait to brag about a trip once you’ve returned.
- Use common sense. If your online banking password is your pet’s name (not the most original or smartest choice, by the way), don’t upload photos of “Fluffy” and ask what everyone thinks of his adorable new Steelers costume. Thieves are smart enough to know this could be the key to the vault.
- Be skeptical of those online quizzes, which are often designed to get you to reveal your secrets. Even something as innocuous as “Which Superhero Are You?” may not be so innocent. The name of the street you grew up on or your favorite vacation spot could be clues to your passwords.