Would you give a complete stranger the keys to your home or office? Probably not.
Yet that’s exactly what occurs when you or a family member log onto a social media site like Facebook, or one of the popular “check-in” sites, without taking adequate steps to guard your privacy.
Those websites can be a “gold mine” of information available to potential burglars, ID thieves, stalkers, or people who simply don’t like you, according to law enforcement and internet security experts.
For example, posting information online about your work schedule, social or vacation plans, even doctor appointments, can inform potential burglars when no one is home.
Consumer complaints against Facebook—the most popular social networking website—have increased in the past few years, not only in the U.S., but also in Canada and Germany. The most serious cases involve stolen identity, burglary, or stalking. Unfortunately, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has ignored those complaints, even though members of Congress from both political parties have also voiced concern.
Ongoing news reports suggest Facebook is either ignoring, or slow to respond, to those complaints. For example, in January 2011, Facebook suspended a plan to allow third-party access to users’ home addresses and phone numbers, but shortly thereafter said it
Serious caution advised
If you or a family member use any of the social websites, you should adhere to these warnings compiled by MarketWatch, an internet-based news service subsidiary of Dow Jones:
– Remain aware: Determine exactly who wants to be your friend or is asking you to link into their network. Some people will befriend your friends to get to you or your company.
– Delete all information from your social networking pages that you don’t want available to ID thieves, such as your date and place of birth, address, phone number, email address, even your cell phone number.
– Change privacy settings to “friends only” so outsiders can’t see your profile. Restrict your page to real friends, not friends of friends.
– Limit information about your activities. If you write about a trip or party, do it after the fact.
– Be wary of seemingly harmless “surveys”. When someone invites you to answer “innocent questions”, it could be a trick to harvest your personal data.
– Before sharing any information online about yourself or your workplace, ask yourself: “What would the consequences be if this information fell into the hands of my boss, competitor, or people who don’t like me?”
– Finally, remember that anything you type into a computer is permanent and can be made public. Don’t put up anything today you could regret tomorrow, next year, or ten years from now.
As the old saying goes, “forewarned is forearmed.” If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.