As of December 2012, 67% of online adults use social networking sites [Pew Internet]… that’s 2 out of 3 people using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, MySpace (and so many more!) to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues. Some folks may not think about it, but having our lives in the social-sphere like that can pose a serious identity theft risk.
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.
Here are some tips to help protect yourself from identity theft.
1. Set your profile page to private. Most social networking websites, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+, will allow you to control who can and can’t see your profile. By only allowing your personal friends or folks you have currently or previously worked with access to your information, you’re significantly reducing the risk.
2. Create unique & secure passwords. Strong passwords will deter online criminals. Use passwords that include upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Create a different password for each social networking site.
3. Device security. If you use a public computer, log out and clear the cookies. Lock your smart phone, tablet and laptop computers to deter an identity theft in case of a physical theft.
4. Be weary of Wi-Fi. Hackers often set up access points in public places to obtain your passwords. Before logging on to any Wi-Fi network, check with the establishment to verify the network name. Never use public Wi-Fi to log into bank accounts.
5. Be private. Another easy way to protect your identity is simply to not include private information in your online profile. Don’t post your address and phone number where the world can see it. Consider this, if your address or city is posted and you write a post on your profile that reads “will write soon, am off the Bahamas for 10 days,” not only will a potential identity thief have your address, but also the knowledge that your mailbox will be unsupervised for the next 10 days. So not safe.
6. Is it necessary? 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.
What tips do you have for protecting yourself online? Share them on my Facebook page!
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