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Identity Theft on Social Networking Sites

Posted By: Thomas Shaw, 1:06pm Friday 23 January 2009    Print Article

Identity theft is becoming a serious problems across the world, and with the innovation of technology, there are new ways to steal your identity being found every day. It is becoming harder and harder to protect yourself from this crime and ensuring your personal data is safe is becoming a constant struggle. You wouldn't want to give your personal details to a complete stranger, but the reality is you are doing this every time you sign up to a social networking site.

Because many social networking sites are viewable by anyone as a default, any information you enter into your profile could be easily searched and available to the world. Most people give little thought to posting their birthday, where they were born, and full name, but sometimes even this small amount of information can be all a professional identity thief needs to access your identity.

One of the simplest ways to increase security is to set your profile page to private. Most social networking websites, like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn will allow you to control who can and can't see your profile. By only allowing your personal friends access to your information, you're significantly reducing the risk.

What happens is that people rush to sign up for these new social networking sites. They register and mindless begin filling out their profiles, sharing lots of personal information like date of birth, complete name and contact information / location (email, phone number, personal photos) and more. However, people most often donít use the privacy settings offered by the sites, as they should.

Not only that, social networking site users also post to forums, blogs and chats about when theyíre leaving town and going on holiday. Other information that should remain confidential is often shared, too, like which banks are used online, which sites with shopping carts, etc.

Social Networking Safety Tips
  • Never assume that people are who they say they are.
  • Use the siteís privacy settings and only share your profile information with family and trusted friends.
  • Watch what you do list online, regardless of privacy settings. A thief can take your digital photo and all other info and use your identity. Donít give them all that ammunition. Upload a favorite animal or flower image, for example, instead of your face. List the nearest large city instead of the small town where you live. Use a nickname, maiden name or other identity listing.
  • Do not discuss holiday/travel plans online. No one needs to know when youíre going on holidays or even on business trips. Tell the about the trips AFTER you return. And donít ask others about their plans, either, encouraging them to post their private info.
  • Alert your work colleagues, family members, friends and others to these security issues to help others be and stay safe, too.
  • If a social networking site doesnít look safe or you canít figure out the privacy settings, donít use it. Go somewhere safe.
  • Report suspicious activities
Finally, before posting anything online, really consider whether or not its necessary. Ask yourself if you'd write that information on a bathroom wall or distribute it on a flyer. If the answer is no, then perhaps you shouldn't be posting it at all. Remember, social networking can be fun, but make sure you're the one in control. Things are always changing and growing on the web. So only interact where itís safest for you.

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